Students Say No To Regulation Of Entertainment At Um Campuses

October 23, 2009|By Steve Glickman and Sarah Elfreth

Today, with the Maryland Board of Regents discussing a first-in-the-nation policy regulating entertainment events on its 13 campuses, we are proud to say that students have stood up and said: "No policy."

As the student representative on the Board of Regents and the student body president of the University System of Maryland's flagship university in College Park, we don't support porn. Rather, we support the right of students and student groups to host entertainment events on their campuses without the fear of censorship by a university administrator or a state politician. If we allow politicians to control university programming, we will sacrifice education for indoctrination.

At a free speech forum held on College Park's campus Oct. 13, and in resolutions passed by the Student Government Associations of five campuses (University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Salisbury University and Towson University), as well as the University System of Maryland Student Council, students overwhelmingly expressed their outrage at a policy that would set a dangerous precedent.

The establishment of any policy would effectively say it is acceptable for state politicians to dictate that the university system fall in line with their political agendas. This is irresponsible and puts the system's 143,000 students at a severe disadvantage compared to their peer institutions.

Additionally, any policy that hinders entertainment events on campus will have a chilling effect on students and faculty. Members of the university community should not have to go through a complicated system of red tape to see if a film is appropriate to show on a college campus.

The campus community that binds students, faculty, staff and alumni with a sense of pride is built by a vibrant atmosphere of out-of-the-classroom events and activities. These events contribute to the culture of the campuses and are an essential part of student life. Higher education has long been seen as a bastion for the free exchange of ideas and educated discourse. Restricting student events would harm the development of this important sense of campus community.

If a policy is passed, it has the potential to affect a wide range of student entertainment events on campus. The Board of Regents - and for that matter, university administrators - do not have the time to pre-screen every film shown. Setting up an approval process would add more unnecessary bureaucracy to the system.

How would a policy be enforced, and where would it stop? We just don't know.

It is impossible to have this discussion without mentioning the constitutionality of any proposed policy. It is without question that any policy setting restrictions on students' entertainment choices could potentially be challenged in court. With First Amendment lawsuits typically lasting five to eight years, no one wants to see a university or the university system face long and expensive litigation.

After the controversy earlier this year over the screening of a XXX-rated film at College Park, some state lawmakers went so far as to attempt to hold up funding for public university construction projects if their governing bodies did not set policies on how and when pornographic material may be shown on campus. There is a reason that no major university in the United States has gone down that road.

When making its decision, we challenge the board to protect the academic freedom of our universities, both in the classroom and out, and vote "no policy." After all, the students already have.

Steve Glickman is the student body president at the University of Maryland. Sarah Elfreth is the student regent on the Board of Regents. They can be reached at sgacommunications@gmail.com.

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