Community forum to discuss pornography fails to provoke controversy

About 40 students gathered in Rangos Hall Thursday evening for a “Campus Conversation on TBA,” the latest in a series of deliberative poll events that have discussed controversial issues ranging from the role of marriage in America to the display of public art on campus.

Thursday’s forum rightly highlighted that TBA — the not-so-secret code name for the Activities Board’s (AB) semesterly showing of a pornographic film in McConomy Auditorium — is about more than on-screen fornication. TBA raises questions about the objectification of women, gender stereotypes, body image, self-esteem, and even the potential for human-rights crimes committed against a film’s actors. However, one question seemingly not up for debate this week was whether showing pornography at Carnegie Mellon is controversial.

Legally, the screening of adult pornography to adults is protected by the First Amendment. Locally, Director of Student Activities Liz Vaughan made it clear that the Carnegie Mellon administration supports the right to freedom of expression as applied to TBA. The university’s strong defense of free speech leaves control over continuing or shutting down TBA events in the hands of the Activities Board; for the board’s part, AB President Adam Kriegel stressed his organization’s commitment to bringing events of all types to campus, including TBA. Few students at the Campus Conversation expressed personal opinions against allowing the screenings to continue. Furthermore, the fact that only a few dozen of Carnegie Mellon’s 5,900 undergraduates chose to attend the forum speaks to the extent that pornographic movies on campus have become a non-issue.

We applaud the fact that our community is coming to a consensus on what was previously an explosive and divisive topic, and we think the consensus is the right one. Now that the question of “if” has been settled with respect to TBA, we can collectively move on to the question of “how” the event is presented. There have been calls for AB Films to select TBA movies based on more careful consideration of their content or the working conditions in effect during their production. AB could also conduct a broad survey of the entire student body to determine what sort of films would be the most desirable. With these additions in place, we can easily envision TBA becoming an understood and respected Carnegie Mellon tradition.