Promotion of political film series questioned

By Darren Meritz, El Paso Times
El Paso Times
October 28, 2004 Thursday

University of Texas at El Paso administrators are looking into whether a student employee used her position with the university to promote a film campaign that is critical of President Bush's policies.

Georgina Hernandez, 23, a student event coordinator and a senior theater major, has been promoting the screening of movies that are a part of the Films to See Before You Vote campaign. One of the screenings is today.

"It has nothing to do with the university, as a matter of fact." Hernandez said. "I'm just the provider. I'm facilitating this material for professors."

Tuesday, she sent e-mails from the Center for Civic Engagement at UTEP to people on two e-mail lists that are used to distribute news to people interested in community affairs. The e-mails indicated that she is associated with UTEP's Office of Special Events and that she would have copies of the films in her office for "anyone who might be interested in showing them."

Hernandez's supervisor said that the e-mail promotion was done in her capacity as a student. "She's exercising her right as a student," said Carol Roberts-Spence, director of special events. The film campaign is promoting the screening of such movies as "Uncovered: The War on Iraq," a critique of the Bush administration's rationale for invading Iraq.

Hernandez said she was working with professors in the anthropology and political science departments to show the films as educational material. Richard Padilla, vice president for student affairs at UTEP, emphasized students' First Amendment rights but at the same time distanced the university from any political endorsement.

"If a representative of an office used office resources to promote, as an actor on behalf of their department, advocacy for or against, absolutely that would be something," he said. "We as a university would never do a forum for any political party or any political candidate to promote their candidacy."