24, 2000, Gazette)
I read with considerable interest the Student View in the Feb.
10, 2000, issue of the Gazette by Kelley Power
The library, in all its branches, follows Memorials policy
on appropriate use, as do all computer labs and other public
computing facilities on campus. The policy is published on Memorials
Web page at www.mun.ca/comptroller/policy/appropri.htm.
We post both the policy and the means of enforcing that policy
near each terminal.
If you are engaging in inappropriate activity, you will be given
one warning. Should you continue, you will be asked to leave
the library. Security will be notified if you do not comply.)
is not clear to me that a policy forbidding pornography in the
library would accomplish the ends that Ms. Power wishes to a
greater extent than the current policy does. Such a policy would
rest on two pillars: the definition of pornography and the willingness
of offended individuals to report infractions to library staff.
The first of these is problematic as different individuals will
define the term differently. I have heard discussions in which
the terms soft pornography and hard pornography
have been used, but I admit that I am not certain how the distinction
is made. In a recent issue of the Telegram the distinction
was made between pornography and erotica. Again, I am not certain
that I understand the distinction, although it is obvious that
the speakers think that they do in each case.
questions of definition to have been dealt with satisfactorily,
the concrete situation would remain unchanged. Enforcement would
depend on a willingness of one individual to bring another individuals
behaviour to the attention of the appropriate staff while the
infraction was in progress.
Power based her article not on direct experience, but on a posting
on the librarys bulletin board. She is apparently willing
to accept someone elses definition of pornography without
question. (The posting in question seems to have vanished, so
I have not been able to consult it.) Further, the offended individual
did not take the step that any policy would require for effectiveness:
a timely notification of staff.
have considered, briefly, the sort of software often touted for
public libraries, but have rejected the option on three grounds.
First, sexuality is a legitimate area of study. Second, such
software is notorious for preventing access to sites that are
not related to sexuality. Ultimately, all such programs are also
capable of being disabled or avoided by those with sufficient
interest in doing so.
my mind, the present policy avoids the pitfalls and narrowness
inherent in attempting to forbid pornography in the library
(there are other offensive graphics, after all) and concentrates
rightly on the comfort of members of our community. If that focus
is problematic in some respects, it is at least aimed at the
heart of the matter.
I am writing in response to Kelley Powers Student View
column in the issue of the Gazette dated Feb. 10, which
I have just read. I should emphasize that as a former member
of the Steering Committee on Academic Computing, I was one of
the authors of the universitys policy on Acceptable Use
of Computing Facilities, but that I do not speak for the university,
nor for Computing and Communications.
Power raises some very important issues in her column, and it
is regrettable that she gives the impression that these issues
were not taken seriously when the acceptable use policy was drafted.
It appears that Ms. Power read the rather tersely worded policy
itself but that she did not consult the more extensive illustrative
examples contained in the companion document Questions and Answers
about Appropriate Use of Computing Facilities. Had she done so,
she would have found that Question 5 (What constitutes
offensive use?) gives the following as one of its examples:
Use of publicly accessible facilities to display material
which is likely to conflict with the sensibilities of other users,
whether such material is in the form of text, image, sound or
other digitized data. Question 16 goes on to define what
is meant by publicly accessible facilities, and Question
17 (What sorts of material should I refrain from displaying
in publicly accessible areas?) addresses Ms. Powers
users are likely to find the display of sexually explicit, vulgar
or blasphemous material offensive in a public place. As a result,
you should take steps to ensure that visual, textual, and audible
material of a sexually explicit nature, or material likely to
offend the religious or moral beliefs of others users is not
displayed in publicly accessible areas, unless you are able to
take steps to ensure that other users are not disturbed by your
actions. This is similar to saying that you should not talk loudly
or play loud sounds in public work areas, as these activities
are likely to interfere with the work of other users.
other words, the authors of the policy were concerned with making
it perfectly clear that users do have responsibilities, and that
these responsibilities do include the kinds of concerns raised
by Ms. Power. To suggest otherwise, in my view, is to misrepresent
the nature of the policy. Far from just sitting tight and looking
fixedly at their own monitors when these situations arise, I
would suggest that members of the university community confront
persons who abuse the appropriate use policy.
Dr. David Graham
Department of French and Spanish