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Harvard warns sex magazine against pornography

After granting official recognition to its first student sex magazine, H Bomb, Harvard University said the magazine would keep its approval only if it steered clear of pornographic material.

"The proposal to publish a magazine called H-Bomb was approved by the Committee on College Life based on the understanding that it would not include material that would be considered pornographic," said a statement from Harvard College released Thursday night. "The Committee will be reviewing the proposal with the students to make sure that there is a clear understanding that the organization will not be involved in the dissemination of pornographic material."

The statement did not say what the college considers pornographic, and officials declined to elaborate.

Harvard College will not provide funds for the magazine, the statement said.

Leaders of the Committee on College Life said Tuesday's decision to recognize the magazine and let it use the Harvard name was necessary to protect free speech, in spite of the students' plans to include photographs of nudes and articles about sex. The committee approved the proposal without opposition, but with two abstentions.

The controversy began the next day, when the campus newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, wrote about the vote and quoted one of the magazine's two editors as saying it could be called "porn." The editors, who are both women, and their faculty adviser responded with statements stressing their literary and artistic mission and denying that the magazine would be pornographic.

Associate Dean Judith H. Kidd, who said earlier this week that the word "pornography" never came up in the committee's discussion, said yesterday that media portrayals of the magazine as porn sparked the move to provide closer oversight. Kidd and others will continue to talk with the students about their plans, but Harvard will not supervise the magazine's content or ask to approve it, she said.

"Given the intense scrutiny they're going to receive," she said, "it would behoove us to help them deal with it."

The students who plan to create the magazine, Katharina Baldegg and Camilla Hrdy, did not respond to phone calls yesterday. They have said the first issue of H Bomb will be out this spring.

But Matthew Mahan, president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, defended the proposal and said the student council is likely to provide the magazine with money.

"I think most students feel it is a legitimate publication with a legitimate mission, namely to raise the level of campus dialogue surrounding issues of sex and sexuality at Harvard," he wrote in an e-mail. "The two women who are organizing this seem to be very aware that there is a line that could and should not be crossed."

The administration has the right to come up with standards for publications, he said, but needs to articulate its guidelines clearly to all students before beginning any review of the magazine.

"I don't anticipate censorship, and if there was an overbearing presence from the administrators, I would not be happy about that," he wrote.

Jenna Russell can be reached at jrussell@globe.com.

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