Students front the bill for Taormino's appearance
ASOSU, MUPC pay $4,000 to bring the speaker to campus after administration refuses
Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Sex educator and feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino, whose canceled appearance at Oregon State University's Modern Sex Conference raised controversy over the university's decision that funding Taormino would be an inappropriate use of general funds, will be speaking at LaSells Stewart Center Tuesday.Taormino was invited in October to be the keynote speaker at the Modern Sex Conference, but university administration determined in January that it would be inappropriate to pay Taormino with general funds because of her work as a pornographer and content of her website, http://www.puckerup.com, and Taormino's appearance was subsequently canceled.
In response to calls from students to bring Taormino to campus using other funds, the Memorial Union Program Council and the Associated Students of Oregon State University are sponsoring Taormino's appearance. Taormino was given a contract last Thursday that she signed and returned Friday morning, said Rachel Ulrich, a public health student on the Modern Sex Conference planning committee.
"We're really happy," Ulrich said. "It's been a tremendous learning experience helping students organize through a controversy and achieve goals that we've set for ourselves. Students were approaching me and other community members about Tristan's cancellation and expressing a desire to see her speak, and offering us support in any way we could use it, and that kept us going and organizing ourselves to ensure that she could be here."
Taormino will be speaking at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the LaSells Stewart Center. Though she is speaking at the same time she was originally scheduled to give her keynote speech, Taormino's appearance will not be considered part of the Modern Sex Conference. She plans to attend Modern Sex Conference events Wednesday before traveling to the University of Oregon, where she has been invited to speak about feminist pornography.
Taormino said she will deliver her talk, "Claiming Your Sexual Identity" as planned Tuesday. Though she will comment on the issue of her canceled appearance at the Modern Sex Conference, Taormino said she will not allow it to overshadow the issues she plans to discuss in her talk.
"I think I need to address it because it's been talked about so much and there's been so much dialogue about it, but I'm not going to derail what I originally planned to speak about, so I feel like the core of my talk is still the original talk that I put together for OSU, and it's really about sexual empowerment," Taormino said.
After receiving positive student response to an ASOSU statement asking for input regarding Taormino's canceled appearance and the possibility of bringing her to campus with student funds, MU President Craig Bidiman and ASOSU President Andrew Struthers decided to allocate funds from their program budgets to sponsor Taormino's appearance. The MUPC and ASOSU are covering Taormino's honorarium, travel and lodging expenses, totaling around $4,000.
"Ultimately, it came down to the fact that no one else was funding her, and we saw a situation that could potentially wreak havoc on our community if it wasn't cleared up, namely because our friends in the Women's Center and LGBT community were really frustrated and worried that this situation could put them in a negative light because they had members on the planning committee," Bidiman said. "We didn't want to see any of our student groups targeted or misrepresented or left out or blamed for anything in response to her being uninvited. We want to represent our student groups and community."
Taormino said she feels welcome at OSU, despite being uninvited from the Modern Sex Conference, because students have expressed their desire to hear her speak and worked to bring her to campus.
"I'm really excited, I mean, I feel like it's absolutely a victory for the students and I feel humbled at the outpouring of support that came not just from Oregon, but from all over the world . I feel ultimately positive and hopeful and excited to come to Oregon," Taormino said.
Todd Simmons, interim vice president for University Relations and Marketing, said university administration supports the students finding a solution to the funding conflict, as the administration's intention was not to prevent Taormino's appearance but to ensure that appropriate funding was being used.
"We support the right of student organizations and our student representatives to spend student-fee money as they feel is appropriate," Simmons said. "We stand by our decision though, as those who are responsible for overseeing expenditure of taxpayer dollars, and continue to feel that it was an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars to bring her to campus, but the students have decided to go in a different direction and we support their right to make those decisions for themselves."
Kayla Harr, staff writer