The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 66.0°F | A Few Clouds

Porn policy must be enforced fairly

Porn policy must

be enforced fairly

Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay created a double standard when she allowed the Women's Studies Program to show Not a Love Story, an unrated sexually explicit film, without prior review by the Ad Hoc Pornography Screening Committee.

McBay forbade the showing of The Opening of Misty Beethoven, even though the Lecture Series Committee (LSC) adhered to requirements listed in the MIT Policy Statement on Sexually Explicit Films that she created. LSC notified the Dean's Office six weeks in advance, as required.

Yet McBay reasoned that the screening committee had not reviewed the film within a six-week limit. The policy does not require the screening be held six weeks in advance of its proposed presentation.

There is no doubt that Not a Love Story is an anti-pornography film. There is also no doubt that it is sexually explicit. McBay's policy requires the screening committee to review all sexually explicit films proposed for showing at MIT.

McBay's errors concerning the Not a Love Story screening typify and demonstrate the disregard she has for students, their activities, and her own office. She used the policy as a tool to delay the showing of Misty Beethoven -- a film she disapproves of -- and chose not to use the policy to require the review of Not a Love Story.

The Women's Studies Program was not at fault. McBay was responsible for creating a poorly worded and unclear policy open to endless misinterpretation by student groups and endless reinterpretation by McBay.

Some people are upset by sexually explicit or pornographic films at MIT. A problem exists, and the Dean's Office is the proper place to address it. The MIT policy's goal is reasonable in itself. But its execution has failed, largely because of the ambiguity of the guidelines and McBay's refusal to adhere to her own policy.

It is highly unlikely that Not a Love Story would have had any trouble getting committee approval. The only reason the film was not submitted is that it simply did not occur to the people involved that this movie fell under the regulations.

The criteria for what movies fall under the guidelines, particularly the term "sexually explicit," is inadequately stated.

It would have been unfortunate if the regulations had prevented or in any way impeded the showing of Not a Love Story. But whether or not enforcing the regulations would have had any adverse effect, it is bad policy to only selectively enforce a set of regulations.