Porn Flick Screening at University of Maryland Still On, as Is Funding Threat
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 5, 2009; C01
Neither side is prepared to lay down its sword.
University of Maryland students -- protesting what they see as an intrusion by Big Brother -- are planning to defy authority and screen a hard-core porn movie in the name of free speech and academic freedom.
"What we're upset about is somebody is trying to control what goes on on campus. This is symbolic," said Liz Ciavolino, a sophomore who is active in the group Feminism Without Borders.
In response, one conservative state legislator revived his threat: If the porn flick is shown on campus, the university might just kiss some state dollars goodbye.
A university spokesman declined to comment last night.
The tale of the scheduled screening of "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" has roiled the university's flagship campus and hit newspapers as far away as Australia.
The movie was initially to be shown in the student union last night. But university officials canceled it after Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) introduced a bill to withhold state funding from any public university that allowed the screening of a triple-X film.
The fight might have ended there. But some students, adamant that state lawmakers were practicing censorship, have launched plans to show the 2 1/2 -hour movie on campus tomorrow night, the Baltimore Sun first reported. The Student Power Party, a slate of campus leaders, has reserved a lecture room.
A discussion about free speech will precede the movie.
"It's not about porn at all," said Kenton Stalder, a junior helping to arrange the screening. "The content doesn't matter. It's the precedent of a legislator pulling funding for an entire university based on an issue of morality."
Harris, who says that X-rated belly dancers and pirates have no place in a public university, is not backing down, either. He withdrew his initial amendment to withhold funds from the operating budget but said he would consider renewing his protest as lawmakers take up the capital budget in coming weeks.
University officials "should stop any showing of it right now until a clear policy is developed by the university regarding the conditions under which a triple-X-rated, hard-core pornography movie will be shown on campus," Harris said. He said that policy should consider "the dangers of pornography, the detrimental effect on women and families, and the addictive nature of pornography."
The movie, produced by Digital Playground, has been marketed to colleges and has been shown at several across the country without major controversy. The Fresno Bee reported that an overflow crowd was turned away for lack of space during a recent screening at the University of California Davis.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), a professor of constitutional law at American University, said he has never watched a porn film. But he said state lawmakers have no place dictating which movies are shown on campus.
"Pornographers and censors thrive on one another," Raskin said. "I would hope that Sen. Harris would be content with having gotten the pornographers hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity for the movie and would leave well enough alone. They could not have paid for the publicity they got on TV and in newspapers." UPDATE + Backstory from static_ninja a UM student:
This was the lead story on the news here. And I'm confessing complete confusion on this one. Why would a hard-core porn flick (Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge) even be considered to be shown on a college campus? Another article says that at least five other universities, including Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon and the University of California, Los Angeles, have screened the film and none had canceled before. But why is this specific porn being shown on campuses? Do you all think this is a free speech issue?
Here's another article with more backstory on the situation: www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/college/bal-movie0402,0,3273550.story
'It's being shown at our student-run movie theater. They've been having trouble pulling in money (everyone downloads movies or gets them from Netflix now) so they're trying this to drum up interest. AFAIK, it's working--a LOT of people were planning to go (myself included, now that it's back on). Apparently this was also being used as a way to discuss free speech. Flimsy excuse, but hey--at least they were trying.' MORE DETAILS
)1. This is potentially being played up to promote the Student Government elections which begin Tues.:
- 'With assistance from professors who have not yet gone public with their support, organizers have booked an undisclosed room and plan to show the film at 7 p.m. The Student Power Party is the de facto sponsor, since most of the students involved are either on the ticket or actively supporting it, but they say it's not part of their campaign in the Student Government Association elections that begin Tuesday.
"This is a much bigger issue than that," said SGA presidential candidate Malcolm Harris, a sophomore English and government and politics major and former opinion columnist for The Diamondback. "Students were ignored, and nobody stood up for us."2. The University does oppose the screening:
- 'With the exception of Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) and a few supporters who argued the state was treading on First Amendment rights, most legislators, as well as the university administration, don't think the General Assembly overstepped their bounds. And in an interview Friday, before students announced the protest screening, university President Dan Mote said the legislature is free to make decisions about how the university uses state money.
Mote didn't intend to cancel the film before the General Assembly threatened funds, although he acknowledged there was an issue in many people's minds about whether the university should promote pornography as entertainment.
"In the end, we were faced with the choice of forfeiting $45 million or showing a porn film," he said. "Whatever decision we made, the reaction would have been highly negative. In the words of an old country western, 'You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.'"
"It's not a First Amendment issue - no one ever said they couldn't watch porn," he said. "The people who planned this work for the university, and they're not free to do what the university doesn't want them to do on the job."