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Group revises pornography policy

By Andy Fish

First of two parts.

An advisory committee has proposed a revision of MIT's policy on sexually explicit films which would exempt educational presentations from the policy's restrictions and change the composition of the pornography screening committee.

The draft is only an intermediate step in the revision process, according to Janine M. Nell G, president of the Graduate Student Council and member of the advisory committee. The GSC and the Undergraduate Association (UA) are sponsoring a Feb. 5 forum to discuss the proposed policy.

UA President Bryan R. Moser '87, another member of the advisory committee, emphasized that the proposal "could completely change" following the forum. The UA and GSC would revise the policy based on student input, he said. "The new policy is coming from the students."

The group which proposed the revisions included Nell; Moser; Finley R. Shapiro G and Associate Professor of French Isabelle de Courtivron, members of the Committee on Student Affairs; Campus Activities Advisor Barbara M. Fienman; and Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay.

The present policy, created by the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs in August, 1984, provided for a committee to screen all x-rated or unrated sexually explicit films prior to public showing on campus.

Proposed changes

The advisory committee recommended several revisions.

O+ Composition: The statement alters the screening committee's composition by (1) removing explicit membership of student groups such as the Lecture Series Committee and (2) mandating equal representation of men and women. The screening committee has consisted of three LSC members, three other students, three faculty members, and three staff members.

There would no longer be any positions reserved for LSC members. Instead, three undergraduate and three graduate students would serve on the committee. The committee would be divided into six women and six men.

The committee has not reviewed a sexually explicit film since last spring.

O+ Educational presentations: The revised policy would specifically allow the showing of sexually explicit films by faculty members as part of a class or an educational Independent Activities Period event. The current policy does not address these circumstances.

O+ Guidelines: The statement lists the "Repeta guidelines" for use in reviewing films, which were used by last year's committee. These guidelines call for reality and a positive view of sexuality in films. The guidelines also state that the films should not objectify sexuality and should equally reflect the viewpoints of men and women.

The screening committee had been using these guidelines, so the new statement is not a change, said Professor John Hildebidle, former screening committee chairman.

O+ Admission fee: The statement explicitly states that an admission fee may be charged for unapproved films. Some of the members of the screening committee felt that an admissions fee should not be allowed for unapproved films.

O+ References to LSC: Unlike the current policy, the new policy would avoid specific references to LSC as a group planning to show a sexually explicit film.

Present restrictions

Currently, films that are not approved by the committee are subject to these conditions:

O+ The film cannot be shown during Residence/Orientation Week or on Registration Day of either term.

O+ The film cannot be shown in Kresge Auditorium.

O+ Notice of the showing must be given to the Dean's Office at least six weeks in advance.

O+ The group showing the film must make arrangements to ensure "suitable conduct" during the showing of the film.

O+ The group showing the film must show "good taste" in the advertising of the film.

Nell noted that the revisions have gone through many stages. "There have been about 12 layers," she said. Nell also said that McBay was "being very careful about this ... she wants student input."

(Next week: debate over gender and special membership on the screening committee.)