In an April 3 email, President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff rejected a March 23 Student Assembly resolution requesting content warnings for graphic classroom content, citing academic freedom and academic integrity.
“Parental Advisory: Explicit Content.” It’s a phrase that has embedded itself deep down in the consciousness of modern music audiences, loudly asserting itself in that black-and-white rectangle of moralism on the bottom right-hand corner of all your favorite albums. These days, that little box garners about as much attention as the signature at the bottom of a painting, but its early years sparked a fair share of heated debate regarding freedom of expression, the role of censorship in art and good ol’ family values. Our story begins in 1985, when one Mary “Tipper” Gore purchased Prince’s Purple Rain for her 11 year-old daughter, only to be taken aback by explicit references to sex and female masturbation on the song “Darling Nikki” (“I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine”). Bewildered by her failure to protect young Karenna from the Purple One’s ode to consensual S&M, Gore (married, at the time, to future Vice President Al Gore) took it upon herself to co-found the Parents Music Resource Center, which aimed to lobby for industry regulations that would increase parents’ control over their children’s access to music. Founded almost entirely by women, the 22-person group became known colloquially and in the media as the “Washington wives” — a reference to the fact that their spouses included 10 U.S. Senators, 6 U.S. Representatives and a Cabinet Secretary. Sexist nicknames aside, this undeniable clout brought instant attention to the cause, resulting in a Senate hearing for the PMRC just five months after its formation.