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Adult film ban incites conflict between Univ. of Md. students, administration

Credit: Terry Brown/Art Staff Credit: Terry Brown/Art Staff

Students at the University of Maryland planned a screening of the adult film Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge after discovering that Carnegie Mellon had already shown the film on campus, until Maryland state senators threatened to pull funding for the university.

“The film had been scheduled to play at Hoff [Student Center] since well before spring break, but I did not hear about any controversy until April 2 when I read about the proposed state legislature’s amendment removing federal funding for state universities and colleges that screened triple-X films for non-educational purposes,” said Emily Kay, a first-year undecided major at the University of Maryland. “The university had to pull the film because of the threat to [cut] funding.”

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Andy Harris, called for any university or college’s state funding to be blocked if that college or university screened triple-X rated adult films, excluding films viewed as part of a class.

The university’s decision to cancel the screening of Pirates II has drawn cries of censorship and sparked free speech demonstrations across the Maryland campus.

“Students at UMD — or on any college campus, public or private — have a right to see such films on campus for several reasons,” argued Kay, who is normally not a fan of porn. “You still have to show ID and be 18 to see the film, so nothing illegal there. The state should not dictate what is appropriate to be shown in our movie theater — we might be students, but we aren’t children.”

Another unlikely ally is English professor Martha Smith, who is a self-described feminist.

She said, “I personally believe that movies like Pirates II serve to exploit women and misrepresents their sexuality ... but Senator Andy Harris has turned it [the movie] into an issue of free speech.”

University of Maryland officials themselves have also voiced their support for Pirates II.

Kay explained, “Even after legislation was proposed, our vice president for student affairs Linda Clement maintained her position that showing the film would be valuable to sparking on-campus discussion.”

At Carnegie Mellon, on the other hand, Pirates II has already been screened in McConomy Auditorium, and the school is planning another showing of pornography on April 26.

Last semester, Pirates II and The Dark Knight tied for third most popular draw after WALL-E and Iron Man. Both at Maryland and at Carnegie Mellon, these movies do not rely on university funds, but are donated to the schools by students or even the producers themselves of the pornographic movies.

Kay said, “*Pirates* was not even purchased by the University, so state funding was only indirectly involved by using the on-campus theater.”

There is still a significant portion of the Carnegie Mellon student body that is uncomfortable with the university’s tolerance of explicit material.

“I’m surprised that they would allow it,” said first-year computer science major Joseph Lum, who is a member of the Asian Christian Fellowship and considers himself a Christian.

“I don’t think they should screen it.... Pornography is wrong, and an educational institution, such as Carnegie Mellon, should not sanction this material,” Lum said.

Past screenings of pornography have also drawn similar protests from Carnegie Mellon’s religious community.

“It [*Pirates II*] seemed like a chance to open discussion on campus about pornography as a film [genre], not promoting it but informing and engaging students so that they can make their own educated opinions,” Kay said.

“The state completely overstepped their bounds into university and student life. I really love the different perspectives that I am exposed to at University of Maryland; it’s one of the main reasons I came here, and for the state to limit my views and determine what is appropriate for me to discuss is really insulting to [the] institution of the University of Maryland and to me as a student.”