Pornography A-Okay at Wayne State University Library

Steven M. Cohen writes: From The South End:

Instead of being used for research or homework, computers in the David Adamany Undergraduate Library are often used for another purpose: to watch pornography. A library student worker is quoted, "We can't say 'you can't watch porn.'" ... apparently because "because Wayne State University is a public institution."

A quick look at the state law says otherwise, unless they're using privacy screens. What's your library's porn policy?

Comments 63212018621The Librarians at Minneapolis Public Library sued their ineffectual do-nothing managment over this issue and WON!Library workers take back your library from thepornographers!

Well, I am the editor. What everyone fails to realize is that every time we go to the admin, they "shoo" us away or show a lack of interest in talking to us or lie about the issue. So, we go and talk to the students because they're most honest about the issue.I think this is a big deal. A lot of kids come to our library to do their homework as well and the last thing we need is to have them looking at creepy old dudes jacking-off in the library. The viewing of porn becomes a big deal when people masturbate to it. That's disgusting and shouldn't be allowed, yet the admin wants to ignore it and act like it doesn't exist.You all are missing the big picture of this story: it's inappropriate for people to masturbate in libraries!If you really have an issue with this story, then email me with your thoughts and comments: [email protected].Who knows, you may even get your comment in the paper.

Pornography is one of America's top industries.It's time to get over yourselves, and create a Porn PhD!

A reality check:

From the article: "In 2001, the EEOC ruled that there was probable cause to believe that a hostile work environment had existed before the library adopted its new policies. Although the U.S. Department of Justice declined to bring suit, it gave the go-ahead for the 12 employees to sue on their own."

In the parlance of employment law, this is called a "right to sue" letter - which doesn't mean that you have a valid case; what it means is that the EEOC has examined the facts and circumstances of your case and has decided that they won't sue on your behalf. It could be because the agency thinks the allegations aren't borne out by the evidence, or that the evidence doesn't support a finding of discrimination under the law, or that the agency has better places to spend its legal resources. In any case, the EEOC is washing its hands of your case when they say you have a right to sue, i.e., go ahead and spend your own money if you think you ought to be able to sue, but we're outta here.

So, not so much a "win," especially in light of the Bush Admininstration's public commitment to fighting porn in public.

And let's examine the "win" of the settlement. The librarians' own lawyer notes in the article that the settlement was "within the policy limits of the library." Which means that the insurance company sat down and told everyone that the only money available was the strict limits of the policy - and that would have to include paying for the library's legal defense before the EEOC and in court.

Thus, this is an example of an "insurance-driven" settlement - that is, no one is thinking about principles, but figuring out how to get paid/avoid paying too much within the limits of the policy. For example, the plaintiffs' attorney, who certainly took the case on a contingency basis (that is, he would only be paid when and if the librarians recovered money) is suddenly thinking about how he's going to recover his costs if there's no windfall in sight. The library is thinking about how much it wants to defend principles in court versus buying books next year. And so on. Suddenly, a settlement seems a great solution to all sides.

And what about that settlement? Let's crunch some numbers. $435,000 for 12 plaintiff-librarians. But wait, don't do that long division yet. Their attorney must get his cut - usually in the range of 30% to 40% of the recovery, plus his costs. Let's use 40% so that both items are covered. So, the 12 librarians are splitting $261,000 - about $21,000 per librarian. Given the state of librarians' salaries, it's a nice little windfall, but in the world of hostile sexual harassment lawsuits, it's small change.

Again, no so much a "win," and certainly not a vindication of the view that an employee of a library can force a library to change its Internet policies by claiming that the mere viewing of sexually explicit materials constitutes hostile workplace harassment, as some try to claim.
(Circumstances involving actual criminal behavior on the part of library visitors is a distinct and different issue.)

When courts have taken up this issue - that is, the position that mere viewing of porn in passing in the workplace constitutes actionable harassment - the courts have not ruled in favor of the complaining employee. For example, a female firefighter sued over male firefighters viewing and commenting on Playboy-type mags during private conversations among themselves in the firehouse; she lost, as did a convenience store clerk who sued her employer over the presence of Playboy-type mags in the store.

It remains an open question whether the librarians would have succeeded in their lawsuit.

Does this paper have an editor or proofreader? They might want to think about getting one.

You get the behavior you allow. The public library district for which I work is very firm about this. Those caught looking at pornography are reminded that they are in a public place, that their behavior is inappropriate for a public place, and told to leave the library.We actually have very few incidents of patrons looking at pornography, but when it happens, that person is outta here!

This article could have been from our campus paper, right down to the quoting of student workers on policies and lack of official input. We (like every other library with internet terminals) have a lot of people that like to look at porn and the school paper considers it a perennial story. I was told that the next time we see a reporter for the school paper 'snooping around' we have to kick them out of the library or send them to talk to the Dean, which I think is crappy. Apparently the administration is sick of the bad press. Guess they haven't considered what kind of article they're going to get when they hassle the student reporters!

Working at an university library you quickly come to realize the student paper very rarely goes to the proper people anywhere for interviews. And even if they had found their way to the official mouthpiece--they tend to misquote.None the less--DUDE! the library in the article makes our pr0n problems seem MINOR!

I'd be willing to take this "we can't do anything about it" message with a huge grain of salt. One, they are quoting a student worker. Student workers shouldn't be the ones shoo-ing the pervs off the pcs, that's the supervisor's job. Two, why didn't the author of the article bug any library admin about this issue? I am skeptical that any admin-type would be willing to say that they can't tell people not to look at porn. That's just opening up a huge can of worms, IMO.

That's interesting. What school/college is this?

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