Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Breaking News: University of Maryland Descends into Sin

Just days after showing a porn movie on campus, the University of Maryland has decided to leave prayer out of the commencement ceremony.

Also, just days after the preliminary findings of a report on the history of slavery in building the university came out, the Gemstone Program has decided to raise money with a "date auction" - an auction in which volunteer dates are "sold" to buyers for the night.


Nanette Goodman said...

I'm glad they are leaving prayer out of the commencement ceremony. It has no place in a public ceremony like graduation from a public university. And I agree that even a "non denominational" prayer always seems to sound Christian.

I'm not a fan of porn and I often struggle with seeing it as an issue of freedom of speech. In many cases, I think it crosses the line between freedom of speech and harming women. But, neither we as a society nor our legal system has been able to draw the line so the state senators who wanted to dictate what the university can and cant do based on his own definition of morality was totally out of line. I'm proud of the University for standing up to him.

Lots of charities raise money using "slave auctions" which I find distateful mostly because of the name. I don't see the problem with a "date auction." Every one involved is a willing adult and one of the big differences is that the dates are not really "sold" to the highest bidder. They are rented. I don't see a problem with it. Do you?

Dan Mont said...

Gee, Alex, I hope you get out of there before they start doing something really godless like banning guns on campus or instituting a university income tax.

Seriously, though, I agree with Mom on the whole convocation thing. When it comes to the legality of porn, the main issue for me is the free will of the people involved. That's why it is so clear to me that child porn should be illegal and also the situations where people are forced to do things against their will. As for other porn....I would hope it would disappear with boycotts fueled by awarness raising, but I don't think that will happen any time soon. Still...while that means it shouldn't be illegal, it's no reason why a university should support it with their funds -- only not disallow it if other people put the funds forward. But at the same time, I'd hope they'd take it as an opportunity to express their philosophical opposition to it.

Alexander Mont said...

I think it was, in fact, going to be university-sponsored. However, after the university canceled it because of the funding threat, students got together and showed it themselves.

Talkative in Toronto said...


Interesting developments at Maryland. While taken separately, one can argue the merits of both decisions. But, I could see the inconsistencies of banning the prayer at graduation but allowing the porn.

I think the big issue here is the one of University sponsorship.

In terms of the graduation, this is a University sponsored and funded event. Therefore, it makes sense for me that prayer would be inappropriate. However, I think it would be totally appropriate for say the Hillel to have a service with prayer and similarly for a Christian group to sponsor there own.

Interestingly, I understand that the university president reversed the university senate vote and will retain an invocation at graduation.

However, I think the porn movie is another issue. I don't believe that a porn movie is considered "protected" free speech and found the definition below. While clearly ambiguous, it is hard to argue that a porn movie passes any of those tests.

But, again it's an issue of University sponsorship. In this case, the movie would not just have been allowed by the University, but in essence, they would have sponsored it and subsidized it by allowing it to be shown in a University building. And this the state of Maryland is key funding source for the University, basically the tax payers of MD would be subsidizing porn.

On the other hand, if a student group decided to rent a local movie theatre commerically and show the movie as say a fund-raising activity - well that's up to them.

As an aside, my old roommate, Albert used to show hard core porn movies as a fund raiser for one of his college organizations. He did rent one of the University halls to show the movies. And, after a few times, they told him to stop. Didn't make international news at that time.

(from the internet - where else?)

Thus, in 1973, in Miller v. California, Justice Burger announced the second definition of obscenity - the majority position of the Court, and the definition, which, more or less, is still in effect today. It is as follows:

"(a) whether the 'average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."