The sex show a go-go
January 29, 2008
__Nichol grants venue for Sex Workers’ Art Show; Powell vows to develop content policy__
p. College President Gene Nichol announced yesterday that he will not prevent the Sex Workers’ Art Show from appearing on campus.
p. “The president does not generally review requests for campus space for specific student events — that is usually delegated to Student Activities,” College spokesman Brian Whitson said in an e-mail. “However, given the amount of interest and questions expressed about this performance, the president wanted to review thoroughly and discuss with the student sponsors before [the] announcement.”
p. In a statement released yesterday, Nichol said that he met with organizers of the show in an attempt to move the show to an off-campus location. The organizers, however, insisted that it remain on campus.
p. The president stressed that he does not agree with the show’s content.
p. “Like many on campus and beyond, I wish that the show were not coming to the College,” he said.
p. Nichol, a former constitutional lawyer, added he could not censor a show because of its content.
p. “The First Amendment and the defining traditions of openness that sustain universities are hallmarks of academic inquiry and freedom. It is the speech we disdain that often puts these principles to the test,” he said. “The College of William [and] Mary will not knowingly and intentionally violate the constitutional rights of its students. Censorship has no place at a great university.”
p. On behalf of the Board of Visitors, Rector Michael Powell supported Nichol’s decision in a statement released yesterday.
p. “The choice to bring this show to Williamsburg was made by our students, who believe the show offers some value — the same decision also made this year by students at George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University,” Powell said, referring to other schools at which the show is touring. “While not everyone agrees with that conclusion, we have faith that our students have the wisdom to put such programming in context if they choose to attend the show.”
p. Some faculty and students are opposed to the show and have already expressed displeasure with its coming to campus.
John Foubert, an assistant professor of education, is one of the lead critics of the show. He has studied sexual violence since 1993.
p. “Based on the research that I have read, I foresee that the Sex Workers’ Art Show is likely to bring increased aggression [and] sexual aggression, and by itself may also lead to a short-term increase in incidents [of] sexual assault at William and Mary as well,” he said.
p. Others, like Thomas Chappell ’11, founder of the Facebook group “Don’t spend our money on the Sex Workers’ Art Show,” are opposed to the use of mandatory student funds to help bring the show to campus.
p. “The show should be allowed on campus, but those that choose to attend should bear the full cost of the ticket prices instead of using everyone else’s money to help the people that attend pay for admission,” Chappell said. “The money simply could have been used for more appropriate and effective purposes.”
p. The show organizers said that they expect to raise enough money through ticket sales and funding from other groups to pay back the Student Assembly in full.
p. Powell said the controversy surrounding the show has raised a serious issue about activities funding and implied the administration may enjoy content oversight in the future.
p. “What has emerged from the discussion is the need to develop a more coherent policy involving the allocation of limited College resources,” he said. “This is something the College will endeavor to do.”
p. The Sex Workers’ Art Show will appear at the University Center Commonwealth Auditorium Feb. 4. One show will take place at 7 p.m. and another at 9:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session will take place following the late show. Tickets are on sale this week.