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Let students decide

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, May 2, 2006

I am quite happy to see debate occurring on this campus in regards to academic freedom stemming from University President Father John Jenkins’ statement. Whether someone is sitting in a seminar class, attending a lecture or even discussing social issues in a small group, she must confront differing opinions. In such settings, it is essential to listen to and discuss the viewpoints in order to make informed decisions. One cannot remain passive and just assume that those in an administrative capacity will dictate how one is supposed to react. Fortunately, a top-tier school like Notre Dame has an administration that is dedicated to critical thinking by allowing discussion of various venues such as “The Vagina Monologues” and the Queer Film Festival. Granted, not everyone that watches the performance or attends a film screening will agree with what he sees, but a typical Notre Dame student should be of the caliber allowing him to formulate an objective opinion on the matter.

If the University should bow to pressure from such reactionary views as those of Professor Charles Rice, then many Notre Dame students would be seriously be restricted in their viewpoints and only be further distanced from life outside the academic bubble. One should be thankful that former University President Father Theodore Hesburgh stood up for academic freedom of expression by chartering the Land-of-Lakes statement in 1967 that gives schools the right to present and discuss issues in a serious and academic manner. It is through his encouragement that Notre Dame has become a top-tier school today that continues to strive for a balance between academic rigor and spiritual development. Those who believe that students are merely empty vessels that can be filled with any material and will automatically equate it with dogma seriously underestimate the academic potential of top-tier students like those attending Notre Dame. Students should be given the chance to hear multiple viewpoints and then decide for themselves which one is right. Thanks to the courage of Father Jenkins, students will continue to have these experiences in the future that will allow them to listen, reflect and then decide for themselves.

Michael Fosteralumnusclass of 2005April 26