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Spring production of ‘Monologues’ uncertain as dean waits to receive proposal

Mary Kate Malone | Monday, February 11, 2008

The College of Arts and Letters has not yet approved this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues,” the college’s dean, Mark Roche, told The Observer Friday.

Roche is waiting to receive a proposal for the production, which play organizers expect him to receive by the end of the week.

Though the anthropology and sociology departments have expressed interest in co-sponsoring the “Monologues” this year, their sponsorship is contingent on the approval of Roche, who will review the proposal in light of guidelines set forth by University President Father John Jenkins and the Arts and Letters department chairs in 2006.

Those guidelines, known as the Common Proposal, ask academic departments to ensure that “multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard, an appropriate balance among viewpoints is maintained, and, when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, that tradition should be presented.”

If approved, the “Monologues” would run for three nights in late March, according to co-organizer Lisa Rauh. An academic panel discussion would follow each performance, examining the play from theological, sociological and psychological perspectives. The sexually-explicit play would be performed in a classroom setting and would not charge for tickets, in accordance with the Common Proposal.

The play’s organizers are working to finalize which faculty members will speak on the academic panels. This information is an important part of the proposal for Roche, Rauh said.

When asked what events require a college dean to approve a department’s sponsorship, Roche said: “That requires prudential judgment. One cannot say precisely. … One can’t stipulate criteria that would clarify every possible situation.”

In this case, Roche said, the “Monologues” has been performed on campus six of the last seven years and has been publicly criticized by South Bend-Fort Wayne Bishop John D’Arcy. D’Arcy issued a nine-page statement in the spring of 2006 where he criticized Jenkins’ decision to permit the play and his rationale for doing so.

“The Bishop is, of course, the first teacher of faith and morals in the diocese and we are a Catholic university in his diocese,” Roche said, noting that these circumstances help qualify the production as a controversial one that warrants a closer look by the college dean.

“It doesn’t mean we agree with D’Arcy but it does mean we would respect those kinds of views and try to give it a broader context so students understand the way in which the play … causes concern for someone from a Catholic perspective.”

If Roche approves the “Monologues” proposal, the play will move forward. If he does not, he will explain his rationale for doing do to the department chairs, Roche said. Should the chairs disagree with Roche’s reasoning, then the issue will be discussed with the Arts and Letters College Council, which is advisory to Roche.

If disagreement persists, the play would be reviewed by an ad-hoc advisory committee, gathered by the University provost.

But, Roche said, “This is not a situation where I anticipate a huge conflict.”