UBC Reports
October 17, 1996


School owes Larkin debt of gratitude


Bill New's moving tribute to Dr. Peter Larkin (UBC Reports, Aug. 15) deserves a personal footnote.

Until 1990 I had the privilege, as the director of the School of Community and Regional Planning, and subsequently as director of the Centre for Human Settlements, to serve under all deans of Graduate Studies since Henry Angus.

Dean Larkin was unique in his common sense approach and in his ability to encourage those within his faculty to think for themselves, resolve their own problems, and reach for the highest standards in scholarship and teaching. He championed cross-disciplinary learning and teaching, and bringing together the fragments of knowledge and information so that issues of interdependence can be resolved systematically. The School of Community and Regional Planning owes Dr. Larkin a debt of gratitude beyond any formal acknowledgement. He nurtured its aims and aspirations despite budget cuts, competing disciplinary claims, and other campus colleagues' limited understanding of why planning ought to be taught within a graduate faculty.

Thanks, Bill New, for sharing with us your own memories.

H. Peter Oberlander
Emeritus Professor
Community and Regional Planning

Access to "pornographic" news groups questioned


Should UBC through its University Computing Services (UCS) provide easy access to all the Usenet and other news groups? Many of your readers probably use UCS as their Internet service provider, which includes access to their news server newshost.ucs.ubc.ca: this is the "place" to read rec.gardens or any of more than seven or 8,000 different news groups. Until recently, I didn't think much about all the other news groups until I got a new copy of Netscape and poked around using the newsreader. Quite bluntly, UCS seems to be a distributor of pornography. I was surprised to discover how easy it was to view literally thousands of full colour pictures, most being explicitly sexual.

I noted two things. First, news groups that weren't explicitly sexual such as alt.binaries.pictures.gardens had very few articles; usually under 50. Those that were sexual in nature had article lists over 500 and often over 1,000. Note as well, the word article is computer jargon for high quality pictures and apparently movies. Also, from my experience in the more benign but heavily used news groups, there is likely a large turnover of articles daily or at least weekly.

The second thing I noted was a large number of newsgroups that explicitly invited postings of child pornography: for example, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.child.male While I didn't browse through that particular news group, I did in the potentially more innocuous alt.binaries.pictures.nudism and found a hotbed of sexually explicit photos of children. No, there was no redeeming artistic vision about these photos.

So, the question I pose is: should the university through UCS provide easy access to these photos? Recently, I have read that iSTAR Internet, Inc. --a commercial Internet provider--has blocked access to just these sorts of news groups. Why can't UCS? Surely, academic freedom doesn't extend this far.

David Abbott BSc `88

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