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ODSA knew of planned explicit movie screening

By Joe Kilian

The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs knew months in advance about an Independent Activities Period project that culminated in the presentation of a sexually explicit film, according to Ruth Perry, director of the Women's Studies Program.

The Dean's Office did not, however, require the group to show the film to the Ad Hoc Pornography Screening Committee.

The Women's Studies Office sponsored a screening of Not a Love Story, a sexually explicit film about pornography, as part of a Jan. 29 Independent Activities Period activity, "Pornography in Film and Advertising: Killing Us Softly and Not a Love Story."

The MIT policy statement on sexually explicit films declares that "no x-rated or unrated sexually explicit film should be shown without prior review by [the screening committee.]"

Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay could not be reached for comment.

Perry said that the Dean's Office "has known about this IAP project for months -- a study group culminating in the showing and discussing of this film and Killing Us Softly."

Perry said, "the Dean's Office showed this film two years ago ... if that doesn't constitute approval, I don't know what does."

The Lecture Series Committee (LSC) showed The Opening of Misty Beethoven, a sexually explicit film, on Registration Day in the fall of 1981. McBay forbade another screening planned first for Dec. 14, 1984, and then for last Friday, on the grounds that the screening committee had not reviewed the film.

Perry responded to a protest letter from Gordon E. Strong '85, an LSC representative on the Screening Committee. Strong had written to screening committee Chairman John Hildebidle to protest the showing of Not a Love Story.

Strong stated that the activity's sponsors did not notify the committee of their intent to show the film six weeks before the screening, as required by the MIT policy.

The timing of Strong's protest of the showing of Not a Love Story "makes it seem like retaliatory harassment directed at the young women who are already upset and threatened by the showing of pornography films on campus," Perry wrote.

She also stated that Not a Love Story is unrated, contrary to Strong's statement that it was x-rated.

LSC Chairman Rim Cothren G disagreed. "Whether the film is x-rated or unrated is beside the point in this case. ... It is an explicit film."

The screening committee will not take any direct action on Strong's letter, Hildebidle said.

The protest "should have been addressed to" McBay, he said. The Dean's Office is "overseeing the whole process in which we are just one part," he continued. "We are, in fact, an advisory committee to the dean."

Hildebidle would not speculate whether Not a Love Story should have been presented to his committee for review. "It's hard for me to make a judgment because I haven't seen the movie," he said.

Perry and Cothren disagreed on the interpretation of the phrase "sexually explicit." She noted that the first paragraph in the guidelines contains the phrase "sexually explicit or pornographic."

Perry stated that the condition of being pornographic is included "parenthetically" wherever the term "sexually explicit" is used.

"Not a Love Story is not pornographic. It is about pornography," Perry said.

Cothren said, "I think as long as you start reading things into the policy that [are] not explicitly stated, you run into trouble. We ran into that last year."

Hildebidle said LSC has been the only group to contact him about screening films. He attributed it to the large number of movies LSC shows compared to other groups. "I don't think the procedures are inherently aimed at LSC," he said.

LSC has no immediate action planned concerning the incident. "We are kind of waiting to see if the Dean's Office will do anything," Cothren said.