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Pro-life faculty launch national group chapter

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

University Faculty for Life (UFL), a national organization, approved a chapter on Notre Dame’s campus this fall, the University announced last week.

Notre Dame faculty and staff can now join the newly-formed group to engage in academic conversation about pro-life issues. Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble will serve as the president of the Notre Dame chapter, and Daniel Philpott, a political science professor, will serve as vice president.

Miscamble said the group would give faculty the opportunity to participate in moral issues and affirm the right to life at all stages.

The national organization of UFL was founded in 1989 to promote research and dialogue among faculty and staff who “respect the value of human life from its inception to natural death,” according to a University press release.

“Our goal is to foster research and put forth a pro-life position to educate the community about life issues,” Miscamble said.

Notre Dame will host the national conference for UFL on campus in June 2011, Miscamble said.

“For this particular year I see it as a year of getting the chapter firmly established,” Miscamble said. “We will focus on meeting on a regular basis and doing the preparatory work for holding the UFL national conference.”

Miscamble said the UFL chapter at Notre Dame would work on spiritual, academic and social levels. Members will support each other through prayer, invite speakers and academic discussion on life questions and host events that bring the members together to talk about issues related to their pro-life stance.

“Many of us have been individual members of the national organization for some time,” Miscamble said. “What this marks is an effort for us to collaborate on campus.”

The Notre Dame UFL chapter currently includes 25 formal members, Miscamble said.

“One of my major objectives for the year is to increase membership,” Miscamble said. “This organization is multidisciplinary so we can bring faculty together from multiple colleges.”

Miscamble currently serves as the chaplain for Notre Dame Right to Life, the student pro-life group on campus. He said events between the faculty and student pro-life groups will hopefully bring even more visibility to the pro-life cause at Notre Dame.

“I think students will gain encouragement and support for their own efforts when they see that their faculty who might be a little bit older are still deeply committed to this cause,” Miscamble said. “What I see occurring is indeed a close and cooperative relationship between the University Faculty for Life and the Notre Dame Right to Life, the student organization involved in the pro-life cause,” Miscamble said.

Political science professor Daniel Philpott joined UFL in July 2010 and will serve as the vice president of the Notre Dame UFL chapter. He said his work with the Human Rights Defense Fund moved him to work for human dignity and the protection of the unborn.

“Notre Dame is a university that has a strong commitment to teaching social justice in the classroom,” Philpott said. “And the killing of the unborn is the largest human rights violation in the world today.”

The UFL defends the right to life from conception to natural death and particularly works on the issues of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, Philpott said.

“As scholars, we share a very strong commitment to reasoning and to cool, careful thought in dialogue,” Philpott said. “This is the spirit in which we are proceeding on an issue that can be polarizing and rancorous in national conversation.”

Other faculty members serving in the Notre Dame UFL chapter include Program of Liberal Studies professor Walter Nicgorski as secretary-treasurer. Engineering professor Craig Lent and Elizabeth Kirk, associate director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, will serve as members of the chapter’s executive board.

UFL membership also includes non-Catholic institutions and faculty members, but Philpott said Notre Dame, as a Catholic university, naturally fit into the organization.

“The UFL itself does not have a religious affiliation,” Philpott said. “But obviously there is a very close resonance with the mission of a Catholic university and protecting the right to life.”