Porn block proposal approved by majority of SG

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Student Government President Clare Slattery discusses the pornography blacklist resolution during a recent SG meeting. Photo by Francesca Norman.

Three representatives abstained, three voted against, and 17 voted to pass a Student Government (SG) resolution on a pornography blacklist for the University of Dallas wifi last Monday April 29.

According to SG President Clare Slattery, the resolution will be recommended to the administration for further review and action. The resolution advocates for an Information Technology (IT) program blacklist that will prevent university wifi users only from accessing pornographic sites. Slattery also hopes the proposal will encourage more dialogue about pornographic content on campus.

Slattery said she first considered the question of a wifi filter through a group chat with other universities’ executive councils within the Catholic Council Network (CCN), which is composed of seven Catholic universities and colleges, according to the CCN website.

“I was surprised to see that the only other schools without some form of filtering were [UD] and CUA [The Catholic University of America],” said Slattery. “It really varied, the degree to which [other] schools had these filtering systems. But I had never even heard about the issue before, so I brought it to Seth, who said we had no filtering system.”

According to Slattery, SG executives met with Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford in March to discuss the idea of banning pornography from the student wifi. Sanford made it clear that he wanted such a proposal to come from the students rather than from the administration as that would be “more of a censorship manner,” said Slattery.

“I wanted to make sure the language surrounding the proposal would be clear,” Slattery said. The proposal is not for a “filter” which would block sites via keywords, but for a yet undetermined method or program that would ban pornographic websites using URLs.

Students voiced their opinions about this idea of a proposal on a survey SG shared on April 1. According to Slattery, replies to the survey included concerns about the cost of such a filter, the possibility of blocking non-pornographic websites such as Reddit or Netflix, and the free will of each individual person on the internet. Slattery said she took these responses into account when considering the proposal.

“We didn’t want to put into jeopardy any of the academic research that we have going on on our campus,” Slattery said concerning some of the filters that block sites using keywords. “In no way is that appropriate for a university of our educational caliber.”

Slattery said the current proposition is for a free program. The blacklist may be implemented by UD’s Information Technology Services and would only prohibit URLs dedicated purely to pornographic content. Websites such as Netflix, Tumblr, and more could still be freely accessed on the UD wifi.

Much of the work to make the blacklist a presence will fall to the future SG representatives, said Slattery, who added that she has confidence in SG’s rising administration “to do a great job.”

Joe Scholz, SG president elect for the 2019-20 school year, chose to abstain from his vote.

“Although I formally abstained from the filter-resolution vote out of respect for the Student Body survey results,” Scholz said. “I’m proud to stand with the UD Community in developing a healthier campus culture, particularly in the area of sexuality.”

Action is not expected to be taken on the resolution before Dr. Thomas Hibbs comes into office, which is set to occur July 1, according to Slattery.

Senior class representative Jarad White was one of the three representatives who voted against the resolution. White expressed concern that an individual’s ability to view or not to view pornography would be removed.

“UD is supposed to be developing independent thinkers,” White said. “[Pornography] should be an ongoing conversation. If you treat the actual disease and talk about it like adults, that will go a lot farther than simply instituting a blacklist.”

“I think we all want the same things [at SG], but I just don’t really agree with the internet route,” said White.

International representative Farai Muvirimi was concerned about the possible impact of a blacklist on community and the campus’ conduct around sex and sexuality.

“I feel like [the blacklist] would reinforce negative behaviors that we already have on campus,” said Muvirimi, mentioning problems such as cases of sexual assault at UD.

Slattery acknowledged UD’s inability to “beat a billion dollar industry” and block all existing porn sites.

“There is an argument that this could be seen as ineffective,” Slattery said. “But I think it’s a great step in the right direction because it’s an opportunity to have a dialogue with students about pornography usage.”

Slattery hopes to see a seed of conversation planted in the student body by using the technology available through IT.

“When we…prevent access to a certain URL, we can customize the pop-up page that comes when you type in, for instance, PornHub.com,” Slattery said.

Slattery found through speaking with IT that SG or administration would be able to modify the “error 404” page. They could create content on this page that would direct the web user to resources like FTND or statistics of pornography’s effects on the brain.

“There’s [many] other websites they could find, or they could simply turn off their wifi and go to their data and look at it on their phone,” said Slattery. “By doing this blacklist option, we’re not actually ridding a student of their free will.”

Rather, Slattery wants to offer something to those seeking out porn.

“But were you to type in PornHub.com and see this message that comes up and says, ‘we care about you, and we care about the effects that this is having on you… Do you really want to do this?’” Slattery said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. So then, in a vote that was taken openly — with any and everyone knowing who said what, who voted how — 17 SG reps favored blanket censorship, three voted against, and three were just too embarrassed to vote at all. This, of course, was for every practical purpose an entirely powerless plebiscite — just a gaggle of clueless and mindlessly moralistic naifs that eagerly reached up to catch the hot potato tossed their way by UD’s so-called “Administration.” And it is somehow excused because, why? — because, well, because that leaves only the libertine and licentious Catholic University of America — one of just seven (SEVEN!) CCN schools counted as meaningful comparisons — damned to Dante’s Second Circle. Grow up!

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