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Committee Vets Sex Magazine

College administrators express concerns about potential content

By William B. Higgins, Crimson Staff Writer

An “expose on the demented sex life of the Harvard Band,” a “photo essay” of art and porn, a “controversial fiction piece about female rape fantasies” and an article promoting abstinence are among the proposed contents for Harvard’s as-of-now officially approved student-run sex magazine, the topic of heated debate at yesterday’s Committee on College Life (CCL) meeting.

The committee reached no consensus yesterday on the status of the magazine, H Bomb, which made national headlines after its initial CCL approval as a Harvard publication on Feb. 10, based on reports that it would feature nude photographs of undergraduates.

Two days after the approval, the College released a statement saying that it would not fund the magazine and that it would reconsider its official status as a Harvard publication.

At yesterday’s CCL meeting, Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser, the Faculty adviser for H Bomb, pleaded the magazine’s case and discussed a preliminary table of contents for its first issue.

While the 23 proposed magazine entries are predominantly written works, yesterday’s debate revolved around the proposal of a “photo essay...that addresses the ambiguity” between art and pornography “by looking at a spectrum of photos, from acceptable/artistically evocative to unacceptable/too provocative.”

Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd, who said she has received “thousands of calls” about H Bomb, said she worries that posing in the magazine could give students “exposure that in 20 years they’d wish they hadn’t gotten.”

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71, who was absent at the initial CCL meeting where H Bomb was approved, said at yesterday’s meeting that a magazine fostering “serious discussion of sexuality” would be “entirely reasonable,” though the appearance of nude photographs would be “objectionable.”

But Hauser said H Bomb is a literary effort responding to “interesting, important, pressing issues dealing with sexuality that needed a forum for discussion,” and insisted that the magazine has been misrepresented in the media.

The two students who proposed the magazine, Katharina C. Baldegg ’06 and Camilla A. Hrdy ’05, and its newly-announced co-adviser, Adams House Senior Tutor and Lecturer on Psychology Michael R. Rodriguez, were not present at yesterday’s meeting.

Several CCL members expressed support yesterday for a system of “guidelines” to submit to H Bomb’s editors in order for the publication to maintain its official status.

If H Bomb would not adhere to these rules, CCL members proposed, it would lose the Harvard stamp of approval.

But Hauser said he would rather the magazine receive no College support from the beginning if it might end up losing that support down the road.

“I don’t want this to happen, but it’d be better to say no now,” Hauser said.

Some CCL members raised concerns about possible inconsistencies in Harvard’s approach to free speech if it were to restrict material to fixed guidelines. They cited the inclusion of sexually explicit artwork and writing in other student publications, such as the Harvard Advocate, and in Harvard-sponsored art exhibitions.

Kidd said she was worried about a “slippery slope if we ask something not to be published,” adding that censoring nude photographs in a student publication might not be legal.

But Gross said H Bomb will be “much more examined” than other Harvard publications.

“That picture’s going to be reprinted in every magazine from Hustler on,” he said.

With no consensus reached at the meeting, H Bomb remains an officially recognized student publication with no guidelines from the College as of yet.

Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 reiterated his support for the magazine at yesterday’s meeting, saying it would be “more important for the College to step in” to ensure safe interaction between students and photographers.

“Do we really care what the readers of Hustler are reading and seeing anyway?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Kidd announced steps yesterday that the CCL will now take to prevent more surprises like H Bomb from surfacing.

From now on, committee members will receive information about proposed student groups a week prior to consideration instead of receiving it the day of their meeting.

In other business, the committee delayed a decision on whether to approve another potentially controversial student group seeking official recognition.

The Harvard Oenological Society, a campus wine-tasting group, raised concerns from CCL members who were reluctant to give students the official responsibility to monitor underage drinking.

The group’s proposal said it would limit alcohol consumption to members 21 and older.

CCL members cited the existence of stein clubs in several Houses as support for the wine-tasting group, but several members said they wanted to ensure that mechanisms would be implemented to guard against underage drinking.

A final decision on the group was postponed until the next CCL meeting, scheduled for April.

Undergraduate Council member Jason L. Lurie ’05, who was present at the meeting, said that most of the officers of the wine-tasting group are seniors, which makes for “time issues.”

“I think it’s almost killing their club to postpone [a decision],” he said.

—Staff writer William B. Higgins can be reached at whiggins@fas.harvard.edu.

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