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Freedom to choose?

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, February 12, 2006

As the debate about Catholic character and identity continues on this campus, I think that it is important to raise certain questions.

The first point I have is the movement of “The Vagina Monologues” from a legitimate perfomance space to a lecture hall, limiting its capacity to serve as a philanthropic gesture.

I ask the University to consider what messages are really being sent to students. Is this not a more pernicious kind of censorship, the relegation of “immoral” or “un-Catholic” events to a second or even third-class status on campus? Does it also resemble the tactics the Bush administration currently employs with protests, barring them from view of the greater public? If the answers to the above questions are yes, then the overall conclusion is academic freedom is in peril at Notre Dame.

Now the obvious retort to the above response would be that Notre Dame, as a private, Catholic university, has a right to pick and choose which viewpoints it allows on campus. That would be fine and good if Notre Dame did not also receive federal money in the form of ROTC scholarships, student financial aid loans and other grants.

The use of federal money by private universities raises a serious question: if you are in some part being funded by taxpayer money, how independent or separate from the “secular” can you claim yourself to be? If all of the money for my tuition, books and living expenses came expressly from the University itself, I would be more inclined to capitulate to University President Father John Jenkins’ position. However, it doesn’t, and the same is the case for a significant number of students.

In fact, one of the largest scholarship programs on this campus is ROTC. ROTC is a program that trains students to be military officers and ultimately, when the time comes, to participate in war. In the case of the Navy and other ROTC programs on campus, we have the University’s tacit endorsement of war and its agents, even though our military is currently in the midst of a war that Catholic officials have deemed unjust. Given these facts, it seems to me that more issues of academic freedom and morality on this campus are to be determined by money than they are by “Catholic character.”

Lastly, I’d like to point out that the University theatre shows many films which are out of keeping with Catholic character, including “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin,” a film that endorses, among other things, premarital sex and scatological sex acts. While I liked the film, I can’t help but notice the double standard it calls attention to: it’s okay for discussions of male sexuality, even the need for men to have sex before marriage, but God forbid that women be given the same chance to do so. For those of you that shudder at the word “vagina,” have no fear. The inquisition is already here.

J. M. Hughes


Feb. 10