Art Show to Go On as Scheduled at William & Mary

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
March 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Contract Revised after ACLU Threatened Lawsuit on Behalf of Sponsoring Student Groups and Producers of the Sex Workers Art Show


Williamsburg, VA – Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the College of William and Mary have come to an agreement that will allow the controversial Sex Workers Art Show to go on as scheduled tonight. The show was nearly cancelled last year when college officials first delayed approval of the show and then imposed unusual restrictions on it.

The Sex Workers Art Show, or SWAS, is a collection of performance vignettes that explore the working conditions of individuals involved in the sex industry. In recent years, it has been performed on more than 100 college campuses across the country. Last year’s schedule included Duke, Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the University of Indiana.

“While certainly risqué and edgy, the Sex Workers’ Art Show is an event rich in images and messages about society, sex and work,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “It is precisely the kind of expression the First Amendment was intended to protect and that a university should be embracing, not suppressing.”

Although William and Mary President Taylor Reveley announced last month that he would not block this year’s show, the performance was threatened when school officials again imposed unusual restrictions not found in contracts with other performers.

As a result of the ACLU’s efforts, several changes were made to the contract, and the show will now go on as scheduled:

— The proposed contract required a moderator for the Q&A following the event. That restriction has now been lifted, and SWAS performers will now conduct the Q&A.

— The proposed contract prohibited the sale of merchandise by SWAS. Merchandise can now be sold in the auditorium where the event is being held.

— The proposed contract prohibited video taping of the event. Under the revised contract, SWAS will be allowed to videotape the program to use as a defense in the event that the College invokes an obscenity clause in the contract and refuses to pay.

— The proposed contract prevented SWAS cast members from attending after-show parties. The revised contract allows off-campus show parties after the event.

The five William and Mary student groups sponsoring the performance are Lambda Alliance, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Tidewater Labor Support Committee, Meridian Coffeehouse, and Lips.

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