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Group discusses pornography in male dorms

Kathleen McDonnell | Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Campus Life Council (CLC) members discussed Monday measures the Conduct Awareness task force can take to alleviate uncomfortable situations arising from pornographic images displayed in residence halls.

Carroll Hall rector and task force member Father Jim Lewis said he wanted to open the debate to the CLC.

“It is not the desire of this Council that we aspire to do something that would be overly intrusive,” Lewis said, “[but] at the same time pornographic images are so counter to the University mission and to our Catholic identity that I feel it bears addressing.”

Professor Gail Bederman, who brought the issue to the CLC last spring, said her female students told her they often feel uncomfortable entering rooms in male residence halls when there are pornographic images displayed either on TV or the walls.

Task force chair and student body vice president Bill Andrichik said the committee’s investigation focused not on access on a personal computer – since accessing pornography on the University’s server is regulated by the student handbook, du Lac – but instead on displays “either in the dorm room, common rooms or places that could become common space.”

“That goes beyond the person who individually places it and extends it to anyone who walks into your room,” he said.

But Alumni Hall senator Danny Smith said these images are culturally pervasive and pointed to a blurred line between what people consider acceptable and objectionable.

“It’s hard sometimes defining what is pornography and what isn’t,” he said. “The swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, for example – is that pornographic or is it not?”

Student Union Board (SUB) president Patrick Vassel said the problem is likely related to students not speaking up in uncomfortable situations.

“I would say the big problem or topic for discussion on this campus is on a personal basis,” he said, “People say, ‘We always hang out in that guys’ dorm but I hate those posters on the wall.’ If it offends you, tell your friends so.”

But Bederman said the posters suggest a larger problem.

“The comments tended to come from students who felt that there was an unhealthy sexual climate on campus in that women felt they were being turned into sexual objects,” she said.

With this in mind, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs G. David Moss advised consulting with the Gender Relations Center (GRC) to start programming that might address pornography and related concerns.

Andrichik said the task force will look into working with the GRC to further investigate the issue.

In other CLC news:

u Smith, the Student Concerns task force chair, said his committee is researching Notre Dame’s peer institutions to see how they run their bowl game and regular season ticketing programs in order to improve the program for next fall. His committee is also investigating whether podcasting can be used as an academic tool.

u The Student Voice and Input task force has completed its pamphlet about du Lac – tentatively called “du Lac Abridged” – and will send it to the Office of Residence Life and Housing for editing, chair Liz Brown said.