Some good news from the US Supreme Court this week: Schools do not have to tolerate discrimination. Sound like a radical decision? If you believe the dissenters you'd think that free speech as we know it is about to fall to pieces. Don't be fooled.
The question was whether or not a student organization that intended to exclude gay and lesbian students was entitled to official recognition as a student club, a status which would entitle them to use of school resources (funding, computers, facilities), and use of the school's name and logo. The school is Hastings College of the Law and the student organization is the Christian Legal Society.
Lawyers for Hastings argued that it was simply enforcing a policy that required all official student organizations to be open to all Hastings students. (Actually, as the editorial page of the New York Times points out, first they asserted that the club violated their nondiscrimination policy, then later shifted strategies to focus on the narrower "all comers" policy which says that student clubs must be open to all interested students.) Lawyers for the CLS students argued that the policy in question violated students' rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.
It appears the tolerance level of her neighbors was shorter than her dress. When 20-year old Kymberly Clem went to the Richmond Mall* wearing a dress she had bought there the day before, she apparently seemed too attractive to be allowed to stay. She was approached by a security guard who humiliated her and forced her to leave because he said that several women had complained to him that their husbands were staring at her. (For the basics, see these stories in the Richmond Register and Fox News. The Fox story includes a photo of the dress.)
There are few places where our public and private lives become blended into such ugly displays as they do in custody and divorce proceedings. The current controversy surrounding Jefferson's appeal for support because of a custody challenge that is, at least partly, based on his blogging about his sex life demonstrates that better than almost anything could. The details have been documented over the past week in several other places, and I am coming late to the story having just returned to town.
Briefly, Jefferson is the pen name of a NYC sex blogger, author of One Life Take Two, and member of the community to which we all here at SITPS belong, to greater or lesser degrees.* He is currently being sued by his ex-wife for full custody of their children whose custody they had shared since divorcing, and it appears that information he revealed in his blog is being used against him in court. That information includes his bisexuality, his hosting of sex parties, his drinking, and his having sex with lots of different people, many of them women much younger than he. Some of his friends have set up a legal fund - the Friends of Jefferson Legal Defense Fund while others of his friends and some of his former lovers are advising caution about contributing.** This conflict started an online public debate about Jefferson's life, his writing, and the current custody dispute that has quickly spread throughout the sex blogosphere and has been occasionally ugly but also very thoughtful.
Some thoughts on "Fair Use," 2257, and Stop Porn Culture's pornographic slide show
Stop Porn Culture is an organized effort on the part of a number of antiporn-feminist scholars and activists to convince people that pornography is harmful to society (and especially to girls and women) and to get them to swear off porn and to challenge other people's use of it.
Stop Porn Culture (SPC) is also a traveling porn exhibition. In fact, not only is it a traveling porn exhibition, it is a distributor of free pornographic images. Lots of them. Lots of the most hard core of them.
Some sex worker advocates that I respect tremendously, like Ren of Renegade Evolution and Blog for Pro Porn Activism (BPPA) are out there, dedicated and loud, calling SPC out on its failure to comply with a US law that distributors of pornography must follow. That law, known by its shorthand section number (2257) requires producers of pornography to maintain records of performers' identities and ages, and to make those records available for inspection by law enforcement officials. SPC does not do this. These advocates are also calling SPC out on its use of the copyrighted images without permission from the copyright owners or consent of those depicted in the images.
I sympathize. It is galling to watch SPC use the work of the people they most claim to despise, and to freely distribute images they think nobody else should be able to distribute. And it is especially galling to watch them talk about the exploitation and humiliation of the women in the images all the while continuing to humiliate those same women by publicly exposing in and then condemning their work.
We have been following an interpersonal conflict at the University of New Mexico that centers on issues of due process, graduate student-faculty interaction, sexual freedom and the right of both students and faculty to private lives. (If you're new around here or you need to get caught up you can see all of our previous posts on the matter here.)
One of the things that made it difficult to appreciate all of the layers of the conflict was a lack of access to primary source documents. We have now received a copy of the March 10 letter from the Deputy Provost to those who had petitioned for a review, by the Faculty Senate Ethics and Advisory Committee, of the extramural activities of one of the professors. After carefully considering the content and implications of this we have determined that it is in the public interest to publish that letter here in its entirety. In doing so, we were aware that extracts had appeared in the media. (You can click here for a PDF of the scanned letter or click on the images below.)
When people have only partial information there is a tendency to fill in the blanks with rumor, speculation and misinformation. We are publishing this letter to ensure that people are aware of the facts relating to the two reviews undertaken by the university administration. We appreciate that a number of members of faculty remain deeply concerned about the acts they sought a review of, and we respect both their right to hold those views and to raise them under University policies on the reporting of suspected misconduct. Nevertheless this is the second review the University has conducted of this complaint, and absent new evidence, little can be gained and much lost by pursuing this line of action. As the letter states, the matter is now "concluded" from the Adminstration's point of view. The observations and conclusions reached by the Provost's Office are congruent with our own observations based on interviews of the people involved and the documents examined.