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KDKA airs report on showing of Pirates; students react strongly

CMU made a cameo appearance last Tuesday night on local CBS affiliate KDKA in a special investigative report titled “CMU Showing XXX Movies on Campus.” The video clip has since reached websites such as collegehumor.com, but not before it aroused much debate on campus.

In the story, investigative reporter Marty Griffin reported on the November 20 screening of the pornographic film Pirates in the University Center’s McConomy Auditorium. Griffin’s report focused on two aspects of the event: CMU’s providing pornography to students on campus, and the use of students’ money to do so. Promoted as a story of parents paying for porn on a local campus, Griffin’s report cited the film as being funded by the student activities fee (the $82 fee students pay annually to support campus events).

According to the students in charge of the event, this information is incorrect.

“Student activities fees money doesn’t end up subsidizing this event,” said Activities Board (AB) chair Andrew Moore, the senior drama student in charge of the weekly movies in the UC. “That’s the typical way it turns out — which is different from most films.” Moore cited that pornography has been shown on campus as part of the weekly AB Films intermittently for years, typically once a semester. When porn is shown on campus, it has traditionally been advertised as “TBA,” or “To Be Announced.”

According to Moore, the screening license for Pirates was free, unlike that of most of the newly released films AB shows. The only student activities fee used to show the film, which netted a final profit of $415, was to fund a standard charge of $250 for security, a $10 fee for printing advertisements, a $300 charge for the free Dippin’ Dots distributed at the 10:30 showing, and $50 for projectionist wages.

“The event turned a profit,” said Student Senator Joe Arasin (SCS). A junior in computer science and history, Arasin feels the KDKA report incorrectly portrayed information regarding the event’s funding. “No money that would have been spent on another activity was spent on this movie.”

Other campus members disagree. “You cannot trace those resources specifically back to the $82 that one individual student spent at the beginning of this semester, but by no means does that mean that student and university resources are not being used to support TBA,” said Graduate Student Assembly president Brian Fifarek.

Upon finding out about Pirates, Fifarek spoke out against the film’s advertisements in a series of e-mails to the University’s administration.

First-year economics major Femi Akintola, a student featured in KDKA’s on-air report, also spoke out against the event via an e-mail. But after receiving little feedback from her e-mail to Student Body president Tom Sabram, Akintola took her concerns a step further — she contacted Griffin at KDKA.
“I know college is supposed to be liberal and there’s supposed to be a freedom of speech, but I feel like if people want to watch pornography, I don’t understand why they can’t do that in the privacy of their room,” said Akintola in an interview after the report aired. “Why do they have to do that in public?”
As she told Griffin during their first conversation, Akintola was also disturbed that student activities money went toward the event. Griffin picked up the story as an undercover investigative report, according to assistant vice-president for media relations Theresa Thomas, whom he contacted about the event.

But to Moore, Griffin’s report was too undercover — the reporter never spoke with AB, the organization that put on the event.

“The organization that put this on said that they will continue to do this as long as they have control of student activity money and as long as showing pornography is legal — and it is, for now,” said Griffin in his on-air report.

Yet according to Moore, Griffin never spoke with anyone in AB.

“We never said that. He never talked to us — how could we have the chance to say that?” Moore said.

According to Griffin in a conversation after the report aired, University administration refused to provide him with the organization’s contact information.

In an e-mail following the KDKA report, associate dean of Student Affairs Jennifer Church wrote: “The university was not asked for information regarding the students or student organization responsible for sponsoring the event until Monday, November 28, at 5:50, which I became aware of on the 29th. I simply didn’t feel that there was any need to put our students in that position, nor to prioritize this inquiry over other matters, and so did not comply.”

In his report, Griffin also incorrectly reported the number of students who attended the film. He said the film drew 3000 students in its three sold-out shows. According to Moore, approximately 1020 students saw the film, which boasted only two sold-out screenings in McConomy Auditorium, which has a maximum capacity of 445 people.

While the report’s factual inaccuracies upset some students, the story unsettled some with the larger issue at stake: pornography. “It’s not that the movie has sex scenes in it that bothers me. A lot of movies have sex scenes, and they are for the artistic benefit of the movie,” Akintola said. “But that movie was just for the gratification of sex.”

After the report aired, Griffin said, the station’s website received a “stack of e-mails and … a record number of hits on [the] story” during a follow-up story KDKA aired the next day.

The buzz about the issue continues on campus. According to Moore, AB Films chairs plan to hold a student forum in conjunction with Sabram, Fifarek, and Student Senate to discuss the future of porn on campus.

“If there’s a large percentage of campus community against it, I don’t see why we would want to continue it,” Moore said. “If it turns out that it’s simply a vocal minority that doesn’t want it, then it would be the wrong decision to stop showing it.”

Though President Jared Cohon did not comment on the issue, Church offered this statement: “AB is an incredible asset to the community, but by choosing to host an X-rated film, they undercut their own reputation and that of the student community. While some may dismiss it as a sophomoric relic of less enlightened time on this campus, it is in fact a fundamental offense to our core values of decency and respect. It is important that we each act in a way that is consistent with the image and standing of this community, and we need to all work together more thoughtfully to that end.”

The forum will be held this Sunday, December 11. As of the publishing of this article, the location is to be announced.