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Senate, House pass porn bill

By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday April 14, 2003

PHOENIX Downloading diagrams of derrieres in the name of science is all right, but surfing the Net in search of smut should be grounds for a UA employee's termination, state lawmakers say.

State lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that bans UA employees from purposely viewing, downloading, printing or saving material on university computers that is considered pornography, unless it is research-related. In brief, the ban would apply to material that shows or simulates sexual intercourse of all kinds, oral sex, masturbation, nudity or sexually aroused genitalia.

But the measure will also create extra paperwork for UA administrators, who must come up with a way of getting clearance for professors and researchers who work with material that could be considered pornographic.

Under the new law, UA professors and researchers who use computers for work that involves things such as critiquing nude paintings, printing diagrams of human reproductive systems for courses on human health or sexuality, or researching the causes of breast cancer will have to get clearance at President Pete Likins' level to do their jobs when school starts next fall.

The bill passed the Senate 28-0, with two members not voting, and cleared the House. Now it will go to Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who will sign it into law, said her spokeswoman Kris Mayes.

For most employees, the anti-porn measure will basically have the effect of repeating a rule that already exists. The rule states that employees shouldn't use university resources for purposes that aren't in the interest of the university, said human resources executive director Allison Vaillancourt.

"At the university, we already have an understanding about what the appropriate use of university resources is," Vaillancourt said.

A handful of UA employees are reported to human resources for using their computers inappropriately each year, some for viewing porn, but they aren't fired for it, Vaillancourt said. Unless the employee habitually surfs the Internet for personal reasons or routinely uses the computer for personal business, the employee is warned and the matter is over.

But under this new law, viewing porn at work will be considered a reason to automatically discipline or fire an employee, legally ranking with being drunk on the job, talking back to a supervisor or frequently not showing up for work.

The Department of Human Resources is required to send a notice to staff, faculty, student workers and appointed personnel telling them about the law this summer or fall.

And administrators will have to come up with a system for employees to get written permission from Likins before putting research material, considered pornographic, on their computers.

"It's going to be very logistically difficult," Vaillancourt said.

The Arizona Board of Regents opted to weigh in as neutral on the bill instead of supporting it because Likins told them in a March 7 meeting that this law will be impossible to enforce.

"How in the world are you able to prevent people in the library from accessing here what is referred to as nudity?" Likins said.

Though Likins was opposed to the legislation, UA didn't offer much opposition to the bill. It would have been difficult, not to mention unpopular, to lobby in favor of allowing state employees to look at porn on state computers and appear pro-pornography, said UA lobbyist Greg Fahey.

"It's a very hard bill to oppose," Fahey said.

But the new restrictions don't mean UA will start searching employee's computers for pornography, Fahey and Vaillancourt said.

"What do you expect us to do, turn this into a police state where we're looking over everybody's shoulder?" Fahey said.

This isn't the first time state lawmakers have tried to regulate what pops up on monitors around campus.

In 2000, then-Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, caused an outcry about censorship around campus when she tried to ban UA students in residence halls from downloading anything except educationally related materials. Her proposal, which failed, would have required the university to install an extensive Internet filtering system across campus to limit what information students could access.

Keren G. Raz contributed to this report.

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