Computer Labs Struggle With First Amendment Rights

Claudia Anaya

Many students have been distracted in the computer rooms by cell phones, the sound of music, or people next to them looking at their Myspace page or even at sexually explicit material.

Yes, people have been caught looking at sexual content in the computer labs and in the library, but what happens when they’re caught?

Nune Coe, senior instructional lab tech has asked students to leave the computer room because of their Internet viewing.

“If I’m offended, I take them [students] out,” she said. “Anything that’s sexual or naked, sexual acts, not just a lady in a bathing suit on a car, but they [students] come in and look at [pornographic] movies or pictures.”

“If someone is accessing adult Web sites, there could be some serious sexual harassment issues. We’ve dealt with it in the past,” said Paul Schlossman, dean of student services, who says that if anyone is uncomfortable with what another person is viewing in the computer labs and it’s brought to a lab tech’s attention, the person may be told to leave or just stop viewing the content.

“It should not be uncomfortable for other students to sit here and do homework,” said Coe.

But some students may have homework that requires them to look at material that some may consider offensive.

John Fox, 27, a 3D animation fine art major, had an assignment to modernize a master painter’s artwork last semester and he researched vintage pornography from the 1920s to fit into his piece.

“No one ever said anything and everyone loved the piece that I did (entitled “Da Vinci’s Wet Dream”). When you’re a student you need access to the labs; that’s what the school is here for, resources,” said Fox.

Joseph Mendez, 22, a student worker in the English lab and communications major, said that even though he has not experienced anyone viewing anything inappropriate, he would ask them to leave but would not find it offensive if it’s for artistic purposes.
Some things that would be inappropriate were mentioned by some as sexual acts and nudity.

Even though nudity was seen as inappropriate to some people, it would not necessarily be a cause for making a person leave a computer room unless it was making someone uncomfortable.

Schlossman stated that the lab techs use their own discretion and make choices on how to handle a situation on a case-by-case basis.

Nudity could include paintings by classical artists or famous art photographers, which are not banned, but if someone was offended by them, the person viewing them would be told to stop.

“If it was to happen, and it’s making someone uncomfortable, I would tell them to not look at it, or go to a different station,” said Theoden Jones-Pike, 24, a student worker at an art lab.

There are instances when a student will continue to view material that others consider offensive and be sent to Schlossman, where further action is taken.

“They could be reprimanded, lose certain privileges, for a certain period of time and could be suspended, from a class, an activity, from the college all together,” said Schlossman. “They could be suspended for a semester or more, and with the most serious cases, they could be permanently expelled from the college. Some have a history of misconduct. It depends on the case.”

Some students “don’t come back and we have their IDs, letting the student workers know not to let those students in until it’s clear, said Coe. “The supervisor has e-mailed the labs to let them know what is going on.”

If workers feel that rules are violated, they can open up the page a student is viewing on a master computer and freeze the frame as proof of the viewing.

“If someone brings it to attention of the lab staff, the image may be brought up in the back room but it’s not brought up unless it’s brought to the attention of staff. If you walk behind someone they might kill it,” said Reed Anderson, director of IT operations.

If the student has damaged hardware or software by acquiring viruses from visiting explicit sites, they would have to pay for the damages.

The lab staff that manages the labs put out the signs that are consistent with the college policy. All the labs have the same rules.

GCC’s district board policy states that “behavior including verbalization or gestures that has the purpose or effect of substantially inferring with an individual’s work, academic, or other educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment” constitutes sexual harassment.

The policy on sexual harassment enforced by the school is based on Title VII Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other human rights and equal opportunity laws that focus on sexual harassment as an unlawful practice and prohibitions of discrimination.

The violations of code of conduct violated are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Anderson said that “we’re not going to look at everything to see what students are doing unless someone sees it and complains about it.”

“Every one has their own different level of comfort but sometimes a student needs to get their work done. In my case, I needed the material and the school was my only source to get that done, if someone finds that offensive it’s their problem,”
said Fox.