The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Unique atmosphere must be preserved

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, February 10, 2006

As the president and vice president of the Western Massachusetts Notre Dame Club, my wife and I received an e-mail today from a student representing a group called United for Free Speech (UFS). The email informed us that UFS has been formed “to protest Father Jenkins‚ recent censorship of student and faculty productions,” and directed us to the group’s website. I took the opportunity to visit that site today. Putting aside arguments over whether Jenkins‚ position really constitutes censorship and whether or not the productions in question are immoral, it occurred to me that perhaps the strongest argument in support of Jenkins is the argument that his position promotes true diversity of thought, if not on a campus-wide level, than certainly on a nationwide and even international level.

In UFS’s zest to enhance the diversity of thought at Notre Dame by removing all limits on what can be said within the University’s facilities, what they are actually advocating is that Notre Dame become just like nearly every other academic institution in America. If UFS succeeds, it will have succeeded only in diminishing the diversity of choices available to high school seniors as they decide which environment would be most conducive to their pursuit of the truth.

If a student wanted to attend a university where productions such as “The Vagina Monologues” and the Queer Film Festival are welcomed and encouraged, she would certainly have a long list of institutions from which to choose. Likewise, if a student wanted to attend a Catholic institution where the Catholic faith is treated as little more than a relic of the school’s past and where religion is not important enough to be allowed to stray beyond the walls of the campus chapel, again, she would have many choices. But if a student wished to study in an environment where the teachings of the Catholic Church play a central role in all aspects of campus life and where religious faith and the search for truth are seen as mutually beneficial, not mutually exclusive, that student would have precious few choices.

If UFS sees itself as advocating that Notre Dame expose its students to a viewpoint or perspective to which they would otherwise have no access, it gives itself too much credit. “The Vagina Monologues” and productions providing the homosexual perspective are both thoroughly commonplace in American academia today, as is the general concept that academic freedom means that nothing is off-limits (as long as it is politically correct, of course). What UFS is actually advocating is that Notre Dame stop exposing its students to a viewpoint and perspective which is nearly extinct in academia and start doing things the way Boston College, Penn State, Indiana University South Bend and countless other institutions are already doing them. That would be a shame, not so much for the alumni and current students of Notre Dame, but for the high school students of America, who would see the diversity of choices available to them significantly narrowed as Notre Dame stopped standing for something and fell in line with the rest.

Emmet DayalumnusClass of 2002Feb. 9