College Not to Implement Porn-Policy

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Board of Regents of the Maryland state university system decided against legislation that would regulate pornography on state campuses. This vote came after several months of debate over the constitutionality of such a policy in terms of possible violations of the First Amendment right to free speech.

The need for such a policy came about after portions of the X-rated film Pirates II- Stagnetti’s Revenge, were shown in an entertainment setting at the University of Maryland, College Park. The issue concerning the State Legislature was the display of such “obscene” material on state property at a state-funded institution.

St. Mary’s, along with the other 11 state schools, were instructed to draft a policy for the showing of obscene materials. The goal was, if these materials were to be shown, to incorporate them into an educational program. A request for such a program and showing would then be submitted to a committee for review. Dean of Students Laura Bayless explained that she, the handbook committee, and the College attorney were in the process of drafting a policy. The state legislature gave schools until Dec. 1, 2009 to complete and submit such a policy.

Bayless simplified the Board’s decision; “they have essentially said we’ve looked at the issue and think we should not implement a policy.” She said, “on the recommendation of our College’s attorney, we are following that course of action as well.” St. Mary’s will remain porn-policy free.
After meeting with a First Amendment expert, the Board’s report determined that Maryland would be the first state to enforce rules for “acceptable use of pornographic films on campus.” According to the Board of Regents, the fact that no other college or university imposes such a policy “speaks volumes.” William E. Kirwan, the Chancellor, concluded, “any policy would put universities in an untenable position and subject them to legal challenges.” This is to be expected, as a narrow-enough obscenity does not currently exist. The Constitution protects pornography to the extent of obscenity; however, that definition is vague due to the lack of court cases involving this issue.

Finally, Bayless said, “should the legislature decide to link funding with enacting an obscenity policy, we will comply. Until then, however, we are not taking action.”

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