- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Maryland at College Park canceled on Thursday the showing of a pornographic movie on campus that prompted the Maryland Senate to consider cutting off funding to public colleges where such films are shown.

Millree Williams, chief spokesman for the state’s flagship university, said the film was going to be shown as part of a national dialogue on pornography. The movie, “Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge,” was scheduled to be shown Saturday at midnight, Mr. Williams said.

But the university decided to cancel the showing after “the educational context got lost” in the debate over the screening.

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“The idea really was to engage our students in this discussion, and it just took off in a different direction,” Mr. Williams said.

State Sen. Andrew Harris, Baltimore County Republican, who said he first learned of the film in a story published Thursday in the Baltimore Sun, offered an amendment to the state budget that would have cut state funding to public colleges showing hard-core pornographic films on campus. The Senate was considering amendments before final approval of the budget Thursday.

“The university officials have made a bad judgment in allowing this film, just a bad judgment,” Mr. Harris told the Senate. “And you know what, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, we’re here to provide some element of oversight.”

The amendment would have made exceptions for films shown in a classroom for a course such as cinematography.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Democrat, said that no one had to watch the movie,and that it “should not be up to politicians to try to dictate to the citizens what movies they are going to see.” He also pointed out that a student group had organized the film’s showing.

“Anybody who doesn’t want to see it doesn’t have to go see it, and I think it’s utterly absurd that we would say: ‘We’re going to cut off every dollar to the University of Maryland … if one movie is shown to a handful of students who show up that night,” Mr. Raskin said.

The amendment prompted a debate that presented problems for senators, because a steady stream of schoolchildren on field trips were watching from the Senate gallery, and senators delayed debate until the middle-school students left.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, observing the number of children in the gallery, said: “Can we move to another amendment? We’ll come back to this if you don’t mind.”

But more children from other schools kept filing into the gallery to watch the chamber in action, and senators moved ahead with the debate until Mr. Miller announced that the university had canceled the film, prompting Mr. Harris to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Miller, Calvert County Democrat, told reporters he believed there would have been enough support to cut funds to the university.

“Showing triple-X movies in a state facility — it’s a state campus paid for by tax dollars — and the General Assembly was not going to be in favor of that, and my opinion is that the amendment would have passed, so cooler heads prevailed,” Mr. Miller said.