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Censorship hurts

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 1, 2006

As part of an open dialogue, I wish to take issue with the recent repositioning and renaming of particular events on campus. Inevitably, these actions bring into question the cost of censorship. The university relies on the generous donations of its alumni and felt pressure to appease them on certain issues, specifically past performances of the “Vagina Monologues” and Queer Film Festival. Yet, I cannot help but wonder whether the university is compromising its mission as an educational institution with its monetary goals. Although significant contributions may have been lost in the past due to the continued presence of these events on campus, is that loss justified by censorship of academic and campus cultural events?

First, let us address the term censorship. Many have mistaken the definition of censorship to simply mean an erasure of material that is deemed harmful, or in this case contrary to Catholic values. Censorship, by definition, is also characterized by the act of supervising conduct and morals and persons of authority examining materials for objectionable matter. In a university setting, encouraging dialogue and questioning is indeed essential, but we should meet the unguarded alteration of material with concern. So far, the name of one event and the venue and purpose of another have been changed. The reality is that censorship has already occurred, making this dialogue not wholly preemptive, but after the fact.

In addition, censorship poses a potential threat to the quality of professors from whom we learn. After reading a faculty member’s disconcerted remark at University President Father John Jenkins’ “finely discriminated judgment of what is acceptable and what is not,” it became my fear that perhaps Notre Dame would not be able to acquire or retain distinguished faculty in the future, further jeopardizing the whole of our education. As part of the dialogue, then, I would encourage others to think about the “price” of our education. Are these changes and censorship worth, say, one million dollars? Five million? Are they worth the possible long-term penalties of driving away renowned faculty? That is for us, the students of Notre Dame, and future alumni and benefactors, to decide.

Samantha RaneriseniorOff-campusJan. 31