- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

The old crimson has taken on a new blue sheen.

Harvard University officials have approved H Bomb, a new student-run magazine that will showcase sexual content and nude photos of students.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s 121-year-old student paper, called the new publication a “porn magazine” yesterday.

But young publishers Katherina Baldegg, a sophomore, and junior Camilla Hrdy insist their project is simply “a magazine that deals with sex and the issues surrounding sex for men and women of all sexual orientations” and plan to distribute the first issue just in time for Harvard’s commencement ceremonies in May.

“It will provide comfortable, relaxed discussion that doesn’t hold back and puts a lighter spin on something that shouldn’t be a restricted or delicate topic at Harvard,” the pair said in a joint statement yesterday.

They intend to produce “an outlet … not a pornographic magazine,” they said.

The university’s 16-member Committee on College Life approved H Bomb on Tuesday. Fourteen members approved the publication, while two abstained. But Harvard was on damage control within 24 hours.

“Recognition of student organizations does not imply endorsement by Harvard College of any particular political position or point of view. Recognition allows student organizations to, among other things, use college space and apply for grants from university sources,” said Judith Kidd, associate dean of Harvard.

“While the committee was aware that the proposed content could be found offensive to some, it was equally aware that to deny recognition would deny free speech,” she said.

Still, Miss Hrdy contended in a Crimson interview yesterday that the committee had simply “got past their fear of porn.”

There are some parameters, however. The publishers cannot shoot nude photos of undergraduates in campus buildings because of “liability issues.”

There’s some ivy-covered irony afoot as well. Along with its proposed titillating content, the title H Bomb also is a play on the expression “H bomb,” long used by Harvard graduates to describe the positive effect that their Harvard credentials tend to have on people.

Though Harvard is a bastion of liberal thinking, it is not entirely a conservative-free zone.

The fortnightly journal Salient, described as “naturally conservative but free from political allegiances,” was founded in 1981 by students hoping “to provide a journalistic alternative to a predominantly liberal campus press.” The 116-year-old Harvard Republican Club also produces a weekly bulletin and newsletter.

Meanwhile, for all the frisson surrounding Harvard’s student pornography, it is old hat in some circles. There’s already some blue among elite Eastern schools.

H Bomb actually is modeled after Squirm, a student-run erotic magazine at Vassar College founded five years ago and featured on Vassar’s official Web site, described as “an intelligent and provocative exploration of sex and sexual pleasure.”

Harvard officials made their decision to approve H Bomb after “flipping through the pages of Squirm,” according to the Crimson.

Vassar is not alone, though.

Although it is more a spoof of a grocery-store tabloid, the most recent issue of Yale University’s student-run Rumpus newspaper features pinup photos of the “50 Most Beautiful People” on campus and a section called “Bed Humping.”

Swarthmore College students also publish an erotic magazine called Unmentionables, and female students at Smith College established an online porn site featuring “photos of what guys imagine happens at all-girl schools,” according to an account in the Village Voice last year.

Still, Edmund Sullivan of Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association does not believe these activities signal a serious or disturbing trend in campus publications.

“But I have noticed an increase in sex-advice columns,” he said yesterday. “Really, though, these columns are just the ‘Dear Abby’ of the 21st century. They just contain more free expression.”

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