Our View: Codes are enough

AT ISSUE: Vaguely-written bill could cause expulsion, affect students across Indiana

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, is sponsoring a bill that would require Indiana University and other state universities to expel any student who participates in a sexually explicit film on campus.

The legislation is a reaction to Indiana University's now-infamous dorm porn film, "Shane's World No. 32: Campus Invasion," shot in October on the Bloomington campus.

According to Burton, the legislation, if passed, would allow the expulsion of any student involved in "unacceptable" behavior, superceding student handbooks and codes of conduct.

"These kids are 18, 22 years old. They're adults, and they're out on their own for the first time," Burton told the Franklin Daily Journal. "My concern is when something like this happens that swift action is taken to let students know they've crossed a line that's unacceptable."

Burton's bill, though inspired by incidents in Bloomington, would govern every publicly-funded college in Indiana, where the legal age of consent is 16. The bill omits all levels of disciplinary options, leaving expulsion as the only result.

Indiana University officials have countered, citing that the student code of conduct outlaws lewd and obscene acts.

Frederick Eichhorn, president of the Indiana University Board of Trustees, wrote to Burton on Dec. 16 and said dorm managers and resident assistants will be trained and procedures will be re-examined "to ensure prompt and full reports of incidents involving inappropriate behavior on campus."

Universities should be allowed to govern themselves in matters of "inappropriate" and "unacceptable" behavior. No law can be put on the books determining obscenity, because the landmark Miller v. California (1973) case outlined a four-part test to determine obscenity, and only a court of law can use this test to decide.

This is clearly a knee-jerk reaction by Burton to the situation at Indiana University, and creating a law affecting college students across the state is unnecessary.

The state of Indiana should refrain from intervening. Indiana University should be allowed to handle this situation without legislation, and it appears to have done so admirably -- by disciplining the students involved. Possible punishments already include reprimanding and expulsion, so state intervention is not needed.

College students are held to codes of conduct upon admission, and in Indiana University's case, its code of conduct is enough.

If only Rep. Burton agreed.