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University President rejected our request for a porn filter

| Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, recently decided to cover murals of Christopher Columbus because they were deemed too offensive to be viewed by Notre Dame students. One week later, he rejected a student petition calling for a pornography filter on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi. We are dumbfounded. Does the University of Notre Dame really believe Christopher Columbus is more harmful than porn?

Notre Dame has taught us to make a difference in our community, and we saw a chance to do just that through the filter initiative. Pornography consumption is an enormous problem at Notre Dame and for all people our age. It harms users — both men and women — and their ability to form healthy relationships, and it harms women by fostering a culture of exploitation, sexual violence and toxic masculinity. This is especially relevant in the age of the #MeToo movement. Everyone knows that many people are consuming pornography. What most people don’t acknowledge is that many of them want to stop.

We know that Notre Dame already has a policy that states that students are not supposed to use University Wi-Fi to access pornography. But unlike Holy Cross College (ND’s brother college across the street, which filters its Wi-Fi network), ND does nothing to enforce its own policy. As a University that claims to educate “hearts and minds,” Notre Dame should not play a part in providing pornographic material. A part of that education, no doubt, is the formation of moral character.

To encourage the University to enforce its own policies, we penned a letter in the school newspaper, co-signed by 81 fellow male students, requesting a porn filter. We wrote, “As a university that champions social justice, human rights, equality and dignity, Notre Dame ought to block pornography using the technology available to us. Doing so represents both an attempt to eradicate pornography from the campus culture and, more broadly, a strong stance against sexual assault, sex trafficking and other human rights violations.”

This was followed by a letter signed by 68 Notre Dame women who stated that “pornography propagates a mindset that people, especially women, are mere sex objects.”

The letters went viral. Our petition garnered over 2,400 signatures from students, faculty, staff and friends of Notre Dame. A third-party petition also received over 12,500 signatures.

Nightline ABC, The Daily Beast, National Review and several other news organizations saw how important this issue was and turned what we were doing at Notre Dame into a national conversation. Our emails were flooded with notes from students from all over the U.S. who not only supported us but wanted to do the same at their universities.

Then we met with President Fr. Jenkins. We presented our argument for a pornography filter and how it would help Notre Dame students, our policy proposal and the technological steps for implementation. After this meeting and two follow-up conversations, it has become clear that the administration is not interested in promoting real change at Notre Dame. Instead, they offered to implement a vanilla “opt-in” system. In this model, students would have to sign up to have their internet filtered. The administrators said that this would be accompanied by a “public awareness campaign.”

An “opt-in” filter would send the message that degrading others, especially women, is merely a matter of individual choice. It makes what should be the expectation and standard of conduct — protecting and respecting human dignity — an option. And worse, it makes the default option one that feeds an industry that abuses women and children and cultivates an environment amenable to sexual assault.

We have come to realize that this is a generational disconnect: The types of filmed violence on screen are not “your father’s pornography.” Fr. Jenkins and his top officials do not get it. They do not seem to understand or care that lives (and souls) are at stake. They seem to think that the problems presented by pornography take place on the individual level, as a battle against temptation, but in actuality, it is a community-wide issue, one so serious that it demands moral leadership on the part of the University to promote student health and well-being.

We are disheartened to see that Notre Dame has rejected the call of thousands of members of the Notre Dame family to adopt a campus pornography filter. We hope Fr. Jenkins will reconsider his decision and promote a campus culture that upholds human dignity and respect for women.

Pornography at Notre Dame should be treated with at least the same concern as the covering up of the Columbus murals in the Main Building. We remain ready to support any move to meet this serious issue with a serious response.

 

Jim Martinson

senior

Ellie Gardey

sophomore

April 30

James Martinson can be reached at [email protected] 

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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