Porn film sparks controversy at UMD

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April 10, 2009

3:35 AM

The Maryland General Assembly threatened to cut the University of Maryland’s state funding after the university’s College Park campus planned to screen a pornographic film for April 4. A Planned Parenthood representative was scheduled to speak about safe sex after the screening.

According to Time magazine, the administration originally saw the screening of “Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge” as an “opportunity to engage students in a discussion about the national dialogue revolving around pornography.” After state senator Andy Harris (R-Baltimore County) threatened to push an amendment cutting state funding of over $400 million from the public university for the screening, school administrators canceled the event.

The following Monday, students and professors organized the “Pirates Screening Teach-in,” during which students, professors and lawyers spoke in defense of the screening and a 30-minute excerpt was viewed. Over 200 students attended.

While Harris has withdrawn the amendment, the GA has voted to require public universities to report their policies regarding pornography.

“It’s not about porn at all. The content doesn’t matter. It’s the precedent of a legislator pulling funding for an entire university on an issue of morality,” Maryland student Kenton Stalder said to The Washington Post.

Campus spokesman Millree Williams told the university’s student newspaper, Diamondback Online, that while the administration does not support the screenings, it recognizes the students’ right to respond to challenges to their freedom.

However, Sens. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, and Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, told Southern Maryland Online that taxpayer dollars should not be spent on such screenings.

“If guys want to view triple-X movies with their buddies, that’s fine. But it doesn’t belong on a college campus in a state-funded building,” Jacobs said.

This particular film has been distributed to students at 100 college campuses nationwide. In December, after it was screened at the University of California – Los Angeles, the film stars engaged in a discussion with the 850-member audience.

“I think [the backlash] reflects the sort of moral posturing by the right we’ve seen for the last eight years,” Robin Sawyer, professor of human sexuality at College Park, said to Southern Maryland Online.

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