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



Internet plays vital role in generating discussion, debate

Aaron Steiner | Sunday, May 10, 2009

Electronic petitions, mass e-mail campaigns, Facebook groups, YouTube, blogs – these are some of the primary mediums that have helped generate an eruption of controversy around the University’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to the ?University’s May 17 Commencement ceremony.

Here’s a look at some of the Web sites that have played a vital role in furthering the debate over the Obama invitation:


Launched by the Cardinal Newman Society, this Web site is host to the largest of the petitions opposing the decision, having gathered over a quarter of a million signatures. The Cardinal Newman Society also has a vast e-mail database, which has been used to collect signatures. A recent e-mail from the group read: “Notre Dame still has not yielded, and we need more Catholics to stand up and be counted.”


This site is the only student-run response Web site. It has functioned as the primary means for the 11-group student coalition to communicate with supporters and the press. The five press releases published on the Web site have all been picked up by local and national media. The group is also using the site to count rosaries prayed in a campaign for “the conversion of Barack Obama” and promote their events.


The primary Web site dedicated to supporting the University’s decision, it hosts a petition that has gathered over 30,000 electronic signatures. The site was started by Catholics United, whose executive director, Chris Korzen said: “We felt, given the media attention, that we needed to send a strong message that many Catholics and many Americans support [Jenkins’] decision.”


The online homebase of anti-abortion activist Randall Terry’s protest campaign, this Web site features everything the amateur protestor needs to stage a successful event. Directions on how to get the best media coverage, printable posters, contact information for University Trustees and multitude of YouTube videos featuring Terry are all available at the site.


That’s the address that will be plastered on two billboards on the Indiana Toll Road sometime before Commencement, if the supporters of this Web site have their way. Started by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, the site includes information about bus transport coordination from Chicago and Detroit to Notre Dame on May 17 for interested protestors.


The social networking tool has also played a role, with several groups, both for and against the decision, forming shortly after the announcement was made. “We Will Be Honored to Have President Obama at Notre Dame” claims over 7,500 members, while “Protest Obama as Notre Dame’s 2009 Commencement Speaker” has some 5,000 members.