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Chalk one up for porn (aka free speech)

Huge kudos to the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, which has refused to abide by a cockamamie edict from state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County).

Harris was offended last spring by plans to show the XXX-rated film, "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," at the University of Maryland student union in College Park. Never mind that the film was provided free of charge by the producers. Never mind that no public funds were used. Never mind that only students over the age of 18 would be allowed to attend. And never mind that pesky provision in the Bill of Rights that guarantees free speech.

Harris and cohorts threatened to cut off funding to the university; school administrators then shut down the event, only to be rebuffed courageously by students and faculty members who held a screening of snippets anyway and folded in a discussion about censorship and the First Amendment. After backing down from the defunding threat, Harris and crew insisted that the state university system come up with guidelines "on the use of public higher education facilities for the displaying or screening of obscene films and materials." He set a Dec. 1 deadline by which the Board of Regents had to submit its proposal.

On Wednesday, it was time for the grown-ups in the system to show some courage -- and they did, sort of. The Post's Daniel deVise reports that after some hemming and hawing, the Board of Regents declined to even formulate a policy, saying that any such policy would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement and enforce. The regents also cited the opinions of its legal experts that Harris's mandate posed significant constitutional challenges. Fair enough.

But I was left a little cold.

I would have preferred for the Regents to vigorously defend the university tradition of not just tolerating, but encouraging all manner of free speech and expression -- even that which many of us may find troubling, offensive or disgusting. I would have preferred for them to muscularly reject becoming the first university system in the country to adopt such censorship rules. I would have preferred for them to stand on principle rather than couch their decision in mealy-mouthed practical terms. I would have preferred fire; the board offered ice.

In the end, what's most important is that they got it right. And if their more diplomatic approach keeps Harris and the like from barreling back with yet another inane demand, then the board will have done an even greater service for the state, its schools and its students.

By Eva Rodriguez  | November 12, 2009; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments

Was there an educational objective for the screening of the film, or was it intended as entertainment?

I don't ask because I think censorship would have been the right choice; the principal of free speech must be upheld either way.

But I am growing weary of the first amendent being used as nothing more than a defense for swearing and porn. The idea of free speech wasn't enshrined in the Constitution so that teenagers could watch dirty movies or wear t-shirts with the f-word to school. Perhaps our universities--and, yes, our high schools--need to do a better job of educating students about the history behind the amendment.

Posted by: highschoolteacher | November 12, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, we can't allow college students to view a sex movie. That could lead to all kinds of perversions, including dancing. And that's bad.

On the other hand, it is a "straight sex" movie, so maybe that would help keep our children from becoming ensnared by the homosexual agenda. So that's good.

But the worst part is that they actually talked about the movie after showing it. And discussion leads to thinking, and God forbid that our children learn to think for themselves.

Clearly, our children would be better served by a midnight showing of "Red Dawn." That would teach them the proper values. Wolverines!

Posted by: js_edit | November 12, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet you would have preferred fire. Nothing like hysteria over nothing to make news. Well if it makes you feel any better: I'm OUTRAGED!!!! But then, I'm always OUTRAGED!!!

Posted by: syfredrick | November 12, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Every college has an "art colony"...the art students and their off campus activities are quite interesting. Have you ever attended one of their sex-theme parties? I attended one in San Francisco and the best costume award went to a woman dressed as a chest down full vagina and a man dressed as a chest down huge penis. The walked about "interconnected"...hilarious fun to say the least. So lets keep sex and porn away from university students and look the other way as to their parties...and remember kids, that bag your uncle Louie is carrying out of that store that says "LIQUOR", is NOT liquor if you can't see it...OK?

Posted by: owlafaye | November 12, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

If you teach children to think for themselves so they can make correct choices, they might give up their Christianity...can't have that.

Posted by: owlafaye | November 12, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

No, the first amendment had nothing to do with dirty movies....however, if a school can show "the Passion of Christ" or "The Ten Commandments" just for the heck of it, then they should be allowed to show anything they so choose. Isn't that freedom? Isn't that what all these conservatives keep wanting is government to not run our lives? fn hypocrites.

Posted by: cgallaway2000 | November 12, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"on the use of public higher education facilities for the displaying or screening of ... films and materials" that promote the superstitious and violent beliefs of the Abrahamic Religions. They promote the idea that killing in the name of an "all knowing god" could be justified.

Ignorant bigots!

Posted by: thebobbob | November 12, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Although I can understand being suspicious of using the 1st Am. simply as an excuse for pornography I don't think it should be questioned here.

The University should be a place where experiences vary, ideas flourish, and debates are had, ostensibly so society and humanity can further itself (scientifically, artistically, and socially).

The discussion of sex, pornography, decency/indecency, free speech, etc. should be vetted at universities, not shut down. If Mr. Harris had an issue with the showing of this movie, he should've contacted his student supporters and encouraged a protest (or hand outs, or a candlelight vigil, or whatever it is they do) NOT threaten to stop funding a public institution b/c something there offends his sensibilities.

Before limiting any print or media product someone needs to take a hard look at how much harm it's really doing and weigh that against the fact that materials considered shocking, inflammatory, and yes, even pornographic, are some of the very same things now considered great art.

Also, if students or others in the university community were interested in viewing this they had a choice, it wasn't shown in an outdoor venue where passersby were forced to screen it. If no one wanted to see it then the showing would've been empty & the production company wouldn't spend any more money on a viewing.

Posted by: anonymous12341 | November 12, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The so-called social conservatives like the self-righteous state senator frequently act much like Saudi Arabia's Vice & Virture Police, as they try to make us heathens behave.
I say we don't need our own version of the Taliban...free thinking, and free speech will only suffer

Posted by: Civilius | November 12, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

highschoolteacher wrote:

"Was there an educational objective for the screening of the film, or was it intended as entertainment?

I don't ask because I think censorship would have been the right choice; the principal of free speech must be upheld either way.

But I am growing weary of the first amendent being used as nothing more than a defense for swearing and porn. The idea of free speech wasn't enshrined in the Constitution so that teenagers could watch dirty movies or wear t-shirts with the f-word to school. Perhaps our universities--and, yes, our high schools--need to do a better job of educating students about the history behind the amendment."

--------------------------------------

Perhaps you should study the constitution and the history (political, philosophical and economic) attending the writing of the constitution.

Perhaps you think that "freedom of speech" applies to only those with whom you agree or who support your view of the world.

Perhaps you are so narrow-minded and bigoted that you do not belong in a class room “molding” young minds.

Perhaps you had no sex life, imagined or real, when you were a young college student getting that teacher’s degree or perhaps you just choose to conveniently forget that

Universities and colleges should be places for all sorts of ideas, opinions, debates, literature, art, and yes, even smut!

If you do not want your children exposed to the real world then send them to Bob Jones U.

Posted by: dotto | November 12, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dotto

"If you do not want your children exposed to the real world then send them to Bob Jones U."

And you are calling other people narrow-minded and bigoted? Looks like you are not only narrow-minded and bigoted yourself, you are also a hypocrite.

Posted by: bobmoses | November 12, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

This is about standards. Where do you draw the line, if not here? If someone in the future wants to demonstrate live sex acts, in a presumably artistic way, how would you now be able to stop them based on the precedent of conduct in this case? Maryland's political correctness has run amok. The only good things about Maryland are that they have great crabcakes and they raise enough tax money to take care of their transportation systems.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | November 12, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey Rip, I just did a live sex act over the weekend. It was pretty cool, nobody seemed to care. Well the two of us participating cared.

Another news flash... your parents participated in at least one live sex act. Maybe they even enjoyed it.

Isn't it amazing that everybody participates in sex acts all the time, but we can't talk about it or show it, because it's dirty.

Think about that for a moment and if you don't appreciate the irony of that, then you don't have a sense of humor.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 12, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Freedom of Speech not only allows porn for any adult who wants it, we can also call people silly names in these cool Comment boxes. What great personal power!

Freedom is not free, but, the alternatives are all masks for slavery.

Attempting to project our personal values beyond our private lives could possibly work, if we were immortal. But, failing that, the best we can do is our personal best and ensure as many as possible have a chance to learn to think for themselves and do their personal best. We will never agree on what best is, exactly, but, we all will die, and we (or they, if it's my funeral) must continue, even without our perfect wisdom and total understanding.

Pick out your favorite bumper sticker and stick it. But, only on your own bumper. I will pick out my own favorite, eventually, maybe. It is a free country ;)

There are criminals among us, it is true. They commit crimes. Disagreeing with your bumper sticker is only a crime to you. That is not how we do things. Neither would you, if you understood what was happening, before you and after you.

Only you think everything is about you, right now. You may yet learn something. Or not. You must keep trying. We all must. That is what life is.

Posted by: AlanMarcy | November 13, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

What can we expect when the former Director of the Gay, Lesbian. and Straight Education Network, Kevin Jennings, has been appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Education's Office of Safe Drugs & Drug Free Schools by President Obama. Jennings in the past expressed his belief that children should begin sexual-orientation sensitivity treatment as early as kindergarten.

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty...WHAT HAVE WE DONE.

Semper Fi

Posted by: bilmul83 | November 13, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Some people seem to have missed the part of my first comment that said, "I don't ask because I think censorship would have been the right choice; the principal of free speech must be upheld either way."

See, I DISAGREE with the Senator who wanted to withdraw funding. I think he's WRONG.

I would simply like it if students--and, hey, we adults, too--were using our freedeom of speech to argue over something important for a change.

Posted by: highschoolteacher | November 13, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

That so much time and effort was expended on the silly whims of a prudish state senator, is a slap in the face to an underfunded university system, its way to often furloughed employees and its students. However, I would not be supportive of all manner of free speech: use of university facilities for hate mongering would offend me, and I think it should not be permitted. In order to retain the right to constrain such, the BoR's reserved response in this case was very good indeed.

Posted by: twosadblackdogs | November 13, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I hope someone sends Sen Harris a bill for the tax dollars he squandered in his pursuit of righteousness. It's ironic that the Republican's can pick and choose what items to spend our tax dollars on but no one else can.

BTW - this stuff isn't new. In the early 1970's, there was a U of MD student short story publication with a fiction titled "Rutabaga" or some vegetable title. Anyway it caused a ruckus while I was a student because it had some bad sex thingies in it. Amazingly, we all survived (and of course reproduced).

Posted by: smileyzjohn | November 14, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

big fan here for freedom of speech. want to call a fag a fag? call them a fag. want to call Jesus a hypocrite, call Jesus a hypocrite.

i actually dont care if students want to use a facility in the university to watch porn. i dont care if they want to have an orgy for that matter. i am not surprised that there are those who protest this event, however, and neither should anyone else for that matter.

maybe you can help me out on this one. if the university accepts funds from the state, then doesnt that state have any kind of say? maybe they dont.

this argument for porn is a bit of a double standard.

if i wanted to hold a bible study and sing praises to Jesus in any building of the university, probably even in my own dorm in this day and age, then many people(libs) would start charging the hill of the seperation of church and state. never mind that no public funds were used, never mind that anyone who wished to attend could attend, and never mind that pesky provision in the bill of rights that guarantees free speech.

lets make a deal. you can watch tight asses and big titties on some movie screen in a campus facility, if others are allowed to worship Christ in that same campus facility.

Posted by: ericgroza | November 17, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Isn't that wonderful? The US is way ahead of China in the amount of porn that college students can see. I just do not understand people who are pessimistic about America's future.

Posted by: rohitcuny | November 17, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

I am with highschoolteacher here. I will say with great sarcasm- Way to go kids. Exercise your right to free speech by watching a movie. Go America!! We're number 38 and dropping for a reason.

Posted by: vandahl1 | November 18, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

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