Pornography shown on Dining Hall TVs

by Beacon Staff • March 26, 2008

A television burned brightly inside the locked and darkened DH.

It was about 11:30 p.m., Buff said, when he picked up his phone and raved to his friend about what he saw, also using the device to record what was going on.,Sophomore Joel Buff was on his way to the convenience store on the second floor of the Little Building, strolling past the dining hall, when something caught his eye.

A television burned brightly inside the locked and darkened DH.

It was about 11:30 p.m., Buff said, when he picked up his phone and raved to his friend about what he saw, also using the device to record what was going on.

Pornography was playing on the televisions, he told them.

Within minutes a crowd of about a dozen students were gawking at the carnal embrace.

"It was some hardcore, interracial porno," Buff said in a later telephone interview.

Although the footage he recorded is brief and blurry, pornography is visible in the video. The radio major promptly uploaded it to his Facebook.com account.

And as quickly as it came, the porn was gone. Emerson police were alerted about 10 minutes after Buff's discovery and shuttered the bizarre peep show.

Now Emerson police and administrators are investigating what could be possible misconduct on the part of one Aramark custodian, who was found in the dining hall during the screening.

Citing personnel privacy rules, the custodian's name was not released, but a report indicated he told police he was channel surfing on the televisions when he stumbled on the smut.

The custodian was there making his regular rounds, police said, and wasn't trespassing. Aramark managers declined to comment on the pending investigation, and referred all inquiries to the police.

It is unknown whether any preliminary action has been taken against the employee during the course of the investigation.

George Noonan, director of public safety, said the dining area was secured properly, but he did not know if the custodian had keys to a small audio/visual room where the equipment controlling the televisions is stored.

Police found the access door locked when they arrived.

"This guy is in a position to be responsible for this, but he hasn't had his 'day in court' yet," Noonan said.

No students were found inside the DH, and since those congregating outside were not violating any rule, none were arrested or reprimanded, according to Noonan.

There are a number of scenarios Noonan said would exclude any charge of misconduct.

"One question is, does our cable package have anything explicit?" he said. "So far, the answer is no."

Another possibility was an accidental crossing of two cable signals, Noonan said.

Officers did not find any pornographic DVDs or video tapes in the control closet, and Noonan said they did not have any reason to search the employee.

"He's not guilty of anything," Noonan said. "Aramark has been told we want immediate attention on this, and we want an immediate response. If they don't take care of it, we'll step in."

Zach Schiffman, director of broadcast operations at The Emerson Channel, said there was almost zero chance the smutty broadcast originated from The Emerson Channel-which plays in the dining hall-or went any further than the handful of sets in the dining area.

"Anything that's aired over the TV system in the DH is not Emerson Channel related," the junior television production and entertainment marketing major said. "My concern is how, or if, they got into that closet."

Noonan said it was still early in the investigation, and it is unknown if the video controls were tampered with.

Some students said they had seen the pornography playing in the DH before, but no previous incidents have been reported or confirmed.

"That saddens me, because we would have liked a phone call," Noonan said. "We could have put it to rest sooner."

Josh Anderson, a freshman who lives with Buff in the Little Building, wasn't incensed.

"It would have been better if they hadn't stopped it before the money shot," the print journalism major said.