Porn Movie Excerpts Shown at University of Maryland Despite Legislator's Threats
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
A portion of a pornographic film was screened last night on the University of Maryland campus despite a new threat from a state legislator to deny the school construction funds unless it develops an "acceptable" policy on pornography on campus.
About 200 students turned out for sexually explicit excerpts of "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" and a discussion of free speech and pornography in a lecture hall at the College Park campus. The event was sponsored by a coalition of student leaders.
At times it felt more like a rally than a panel discussion, with loud applause for lawyers and professors as they spoke before a thicket of TV news cameras about the importance of free speech.
Then the screen lit up, and the mood changed immediately. Music thundered through the room, and students began laughing at the pirates. After 15 minutes of churning seas, thunder and pirates wielding giant cudgels, a man in the audience called out that he wanted to see (roughly translated) some skin.
About half an hour of the 2 1/2 -hour film was shown. The point was the principle, not the porn, several student leaders said. Besides, the NCAA championship game was starting about 9.
"That was crazy. I don't know what they were thinking, to put that in a public viewing, especially on a college campus," said Idara Inokon, 19. "It's just not appropriate."
But Dmytro Berkout, a 19-year-old student from Ukraine, said the controversy was a lot of fuss -- by both sides -- over nothing.
State Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) last week threatened to block the university's $424 million share of state operating funds over plans to show the film at a theater in the student union. The state operating budget is in conference committee and cannot be amended when it emerges, but debate on the capital budget begins today.
"I know some students would like to portray this as a free speech issue," Harris said in a statement. "It is not. This is about the use of taxpayer dollars, and the Maryland General Assembly acts every day on issues concerning the use of taxpayer dollars."
Administrators canceled a screening of the movie scheduled for last Saturday night at the student union theater when Harris protested. The university did not pay for the movie, and costs would have been covered by ticket sales. A representative from Planned Parenthood was invited to discuss safe sex.
But a coalition of students rescheduled a showing of excerpts in a lecture hall, taking the movie out from under the university's auspices.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said that he cannot control the amendments Harris introduces but that he hopes the issue will be resolved by university regents, whom Miller called on to develop a policy on what movies may be shown on campus.