USM president opposes sex column in university paper

Published 7:24 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2006

University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames is criticizing a sex column in the university’s student newspaper, but the editors of the Student Printz say it will continue to carry the articles.

Pillow Talk has appeared in The Student Printz since Sept. 7, Executive Editor David McRaney said.

“We had decided early in the semester we were going to do a sex column, based on the idea that many college newspapers already do this,” McRaney said. “The more modern and more respectable colleges all do this. Yale, Harvard, Emory, Berkeley, Cornell — all the college newspapers we’re trying to aspire to.”

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The columns that angered Thames were Pillow Talk’s first two installments.

In the column’s debut, writer Glory Fink discusses sexual experimentation, focusing mainly on the use of various foodstuffs to enhance the sex act.

Subsequent columns — Pillow Talk is published every Thursday — have dealt with drier topics like sexually transmitted diseases and the proper use of condoms.

Many students applied for the Printz’ sex writing position, but McRaney said that Fink, an older student who is married, was chosen for her ability to dispense advice in a sober and constructive manner.

“We didn’t want it to be ‘Girls Gone Wild’ in the newspaper,” he said. “That was a very important standard we wanted to establish.”

In the letter to the papers editors, published Sept. 19, Thames wrote: “I vigorously oppose the printing of the Pillow Talk column in the past two issues of The Student Printz and characterize the content as offensive to the quality and respectability of our student body and institution.”

Thames called on the newspaper to “uphold high standards of responsibility” and to “support the mission and values of the University,” but stated that the Printz operates in compliance with university policies, and that the school itself is subject to laws prohibiting censorship.

USM spokeswoman Jana Bryant declined to comment further on the matter, saying that Thames’ letter encapsulated the administration’s perspective.

McRaney said he hasn’t felt any pressure to pull the column.

In a response to Thames’ letter that ran on the Printz opinion page Sept. 19, McRaney said that high teen pregnancy rates in Mississippi underscore the need for sex education.

Student Cody Langston, 20, agreed.

“Sex columns offer advice,” said Langston, a freshman majoring in philosophy and anthropology. “It’s a form of sex education on an adult level.”

Senior Earl Bell, 21, said his feelings about the column are mixed.

“From a Christian point of view, it’s a little offensive because it puts images in your head, but I understand not everyone is a Christian,” he said. “Everyone reads The Student Printz. It’s kind of there, so it’s in your head. You can choose not to look at it, but it’s so available to you.”