Thursday, December 01, 2005

Candid camera 

It's the middle of the day, and you are walking past an apartment building. In plain sight is the backside of a man, naked, engaged in intercourse with a woman. You have your camera. You take a picture, and you post it on the web. You do not name the parties. If someone tries to stop you, may you claim First Amendment rights?

OK, now let it be on a public university campus, and the student happening on the scene is a student. The room where the couple is coupling is in a dormitory. Do you still have First Amendment rights?

Erin O'Connor adds coverage of Alan Kors' offer to defend the student taking and posting the photo. And Inside Higher Ed (which has a thumbnail of one of the offending pictures) has details of the punishment proposed by Penn:

On Wednesday, Andrew Geier, a psychology graduate student who has served as the
photographer�s adviser to the Office of Student Conduct, said that the student has received memos indicating his actions violated Penn�s code of student conduct, sexual harassment policy and policy on acceptable uses of electronic resources. In addition, the documents labeled one of the photographed students an �injured party� who felt �serious distress,� with the situation causing �an intimidating living environment for her.� The photographed students are not identifiable.

The documents, signed by Michele A. Goldfarb, director of the office, indicated that as punishment, the student would face disciplinary probation until graduation and be forced to write essays on conduct and letters of apology to the students he photographed. Organizations conducting background checks on the student in the future would also be able to find out that he had been punished.

In his two years of working with the Office of Student Conduct and helping to advise students in approximately 10 cases, Geier said he�s never seen �punishments that are so outlandish.� An assistant with the Office of Student Conduct said Wednesday that it is office policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

You can bet the student "seriously distressed" will remember the shades next time. While she is not identifiable in the pictures, I'm quite willing to believe the campus gossip mill has spread her name and she wants to punish someone for her embarrassment.