Maturity Returns to the University of Maryland
By Eva Rodriguez
It took a bunch of "kids" to bring maturity and a sense of perspective to the University of Maryland.
As The Post wrote and I commented on last week, some state lawmakers went into a tizzy -- and threatened to cut off millions of dollars funding -- after learning that the school's student union planned to show a XXX-rated film. Sadly, campus administrators caved in to these silly threats and canceled the screening that had been scheduled for last Saturday. But a group of smart and gutsy Maryland students wouldn't let the issue die.
These students orchestrated a truncated showing of the film -- "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" -- and organized a panel discussion on the impact of pornography, as well as the role and possible limits of free speech. They invited speakers with different points of view, including state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County), who first made the stink about the film and threatened punitive action. (Perhaps not surprising, but certainly disappointing, Harris declined the invitation.) Some 200 students attended the screening last night -- and the world did not come to an end.
Harris, of course, is entitled to his opinions and he's well within his rights to criticize the student union's choice of material. Where he crossed the line was in using his public office -- and public funds -- to bully the school into submitting to his point of view. Just as disheartening, U-Md. administrators failed to stand up for one of the most cherished of values on a college campus: academic freedom.
No doubt some of the students showed up to see the film out of purely prurient interest. But several of them, when interviewed by The Post, demonstrated an understanding of the importance of going forward with the screening and discussing the broader questions that arose from the controversy. "You never help solve any problem by not talking about it," one student told Post reporters Susan Kinzie and John Wagner. Wise words, indeed.
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