Harris Looks to Capital Budget to Deter Porn at Universities


ANNAPOLIS (April 8, 2009) - Sen. Andy Harris, R-Baltimore County, plans to introduce a budget amendment Wednesday that would require the governing boards of public universities to adopt policies on pornography before the schools receive any capital money for the next fiscal year.

The policy would have to address the "serious social and health concerns associated with screening a pornographic film" and is meant to encourage universities to center all screenings of such films on a discussion of the "hazards" of porn, Harris said. Porn creates addicts, breaks up families and degrades men and women, he said.

The amendment comes in response to a student-organized screening of the porno-flick "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," a portion of which was seen by about 200 students Monday at the University of Maryland, College Park. The screening, which included discussions led by professors on First Amendment rights and pornography, was shown as a protest.

Last week, Harris introduced an amendment to the operating budget that would have denied millions of dollars of aid to public universities that show porn. He pulled it after University of Maryland officials quashed a planned screening at the Hoff Theater of "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge."

Students charged legislators with "bullying" and said they stepped on their First Amendment rights.

Planned Parenthood was scheduled to give a talk before the original screening. But Harris said the family planning organization cannot adequately address the dangers of porn, something he hopes his amendment will do.

"The health problem with pornography is not birth control. Therefore, I hope (universities) get experts other than those who promote safe sex," to lead the discussion at future showings, he said.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, said he is pleased to see Harris is "backpedaling furiously" from his broader amendment of last week.

"The university already has a policy on pornography," he said "It's called the First Amendment."

Robin Sawyer, a human sexuality professor at the university, agreed. He said Harris' proposal infringes on intellectual rights and hopes it doesn't infringe on his classroom instruction, too.

"Is the state going to appoint a pornography watchdog?" he said. "How can I apply for that position?"

Raskin said such micro-managing is insulting.

"If we try to micro-manage university affairs any further it will be insulting to educators, administrators and students," he said."The legislature is not the Siskel and Ebert of the State."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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