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Editorial: UA doesn't need state to police morality

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 19, 2000
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In response to three recently proposed bills in a state legislative committee that attempt to protect college students from pornography and homosexual content, this publication has compiled a quick review sheet for certain Arizona lawmakers:

Academic institutions must be free from restrictive government legislation to ensure that no political opinion or agenda can influence or taint higher education.

University students are grown-ups - free citizens of the same state that employs elected policy-makers.

The university has better things to do with its tightening budget than make all campus computers G-rated, and label homosexual literature X-rated.

These things considered, it remains difficult to understand why the chairwoman from the House Public Institutions and Universities Committee has made it her personal goal to harp on the University of Arizona's freedom.

Arizona Rep. Jean McGrath has proposed a new slew of illogical and unnecessary legislation determined to chip away at the UA's sovereignty as an academic institution, as if it were no more than a day care center for pregnant teenagers and sex-crazed perverts.

McGrath, R-Glendale, is the same lawmaker famous for labeling co-ed residence halls as state endorsements for pre-marital sex and suggesting that Women's Studies change its name to Lesbian Studies.

And the list goes on.

The first proposal would prohibit university students from using the Internet for "any activity that is not directly related to a specific educational purpose." The second would require universities to install or subscribe to Internet filters to prevent access to sexually-explicit material.

Greg Fahey, UA's state lobbyist and pitbull for the university's interests, once again found himself fighting off ridiculous legislation, noting the UA's 32,000 work stations, and complete lack of funding included in the proposal.

While the regulations would be wasteful at best, the most important reason to kill this nonsense is the simple fact that no government agency can police the Internet activities of citizens - not employees - without robbing them of their freedom. Legislators have no right to "filter" anything from free adults based on sexual content. Next, the UA Library will have to toss out any video with an R rating. Or maybe cable television should be shut off.

Her final crusade involves course content catalogs, and McGrath's demand that the UA offer "truth in advertising" by citing homosexual content in class descriptions. This proposal is a result of the "lesbian component" in Women's Studies, McGrath said.

If everything considered offensive by some were given a disclaimer, the course catalog would be bigger than the textbook. Why is homosexuality deemed so dangerous that it needs a special label? Does Oscar Wilde need a parental guidance warning? Or maybe freshmen should be warned about dirty James Baldwin.

What a sick and embarassing university this would turn into.

U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon gave a dark warning to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when he attempted to kill funding for a controversial art exhibit.

"There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy."

Let's hope Jean McGrath stops trying to punish the UA.

Students should constructively voice their opinions to McGrath and state lawmakers by phone or mail.

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