Freedom of information, not masturbation

A Missoula man was arrested by the University of Montana Police Department, cited and banished from campus on Nov. 1, after he was reportedly caught masturbating in the Mansfield Library for the second time this semester, according to UM Police Chief Marty Ludemann.

The first complaint to UMPD was reported on Sept. 8, when the man was given a 72-hour access restriction after a Mansfield Library staffer caught him masturbating at one of the four computers open to the general public. Ludemann said a 72-hour restriction issued by UMPD holds the same weight as one that is court ordered and signed by a judge.

It’s typical for UMPD to start with a 72-hour restriction as punishment for relatively minor campus offenses, Ludemann said, but if the person violates the access restriction or repeats similar offensive behavior, the offender will be arrested and trespassed indefinitely.

Ludemann said the man involved in this case was not a student.

Although public masturbation is a violation of the law as well as the Mansfield Library’s Patron Conduct Policy, Pope said the library does not monitor or limit what students, staff, faculty or community members view on the library’s computers, excluding illegal websites.

“There are a whole lot of things many people find offensive,” Pope said. “There are racist websites and pornography, but these are also subjects people could be researching. So we don’t monitor what you look at. We have an open policy.”

The Mansfield Library must provide access for community members who aren’t affiliated with the University, according to Assistant to the Dean Kate Pope, because the library is Montana’s regional library depository. The Federal Library Depository Program was created to ensure the American public’s access to government information, and Pope said the Mansfield Library holds stewardship over government documents and publications.

Pope said through the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, all library patrons have the same rights to privacy, confidentiality and open inquiry.

The Library Bill of Rights reads, “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

Even with these express freedoms, Pope said the Mansfield Library staff has rarely been compelled to report a community member or student to UMPD, especially for masturbation.

“This particular person, his situation was pretty unique,” Pope said.