Senate votes against banning pornography on University Wi-Fi
Liam Kelly | Thursday, March 9, 2023
On Wednesday evening, the Notre Dame student senate voted against a resolution to ban pornography on the University WiFi network.
The resolution, SS 2223-15, was introduced by Morrissey Hall senator John Soza, Siegfried Hall senator Ayden Ellis, Sorin College senator Bobby Spence and Badin Hall senator Caroline Potts.
Speaking in favor of his resolution, Soza pointed to the negative effects of pornography on both individuals and society.
“Research indicates frequent porn consumers are more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize others, more likely to express an intent to rape, less likely to intervene during a sexual assault, more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual violence, more likely to support violence against women, more likely to forward sexts without consent and more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violence,” Soza said.
Citing this evidence, Soza argued that the resolution would help combat sexual violence on campus. Soza also raised the point that Holy Cross College and Catholic University of American have banned pornography on their Wi-Fi and that Notre Dame must do the same in order to uphold its Catholic values.
The resolution was the subject of lively debate by a number of senators.
Some senators argued that while the intentions of the legislation might be good, the resolution itself would have little to no effect on deterring sexual violence.
“I think that from the perspective of decreasing sexual violence on campus, I am fully on board with it in that regard,” a Senator argued. “[However,] I don’t necessarily think that this [pornography] is the issue. I don’t think this is really going to mean much, realistically.”
Student body president Patrick Lee made that case that while banning pornography would not solve the problem of sexual violence on campus, it would be a positive step in that direction.
“The point is accurate that there could be better ways to address the culture of sexual violence on campus,” Lee conceded. “But if we spent all our time trying to find the only way to move forward on issues, the student government would be paralyzed. Obviously, this wouldn’t eliminate all porn usage on campus but it might trigger students to ask ‘Why is this banned?’”
Many senators echoed the point that students would be able to find ways around the pornography ban by using cellular data or the “ND Guest” Wi-Fi network, but the sponsors of the bill stated that the resolution was symbolically important in affirming the University’s Catholic values.
“We completely understand people can still use their phone and look at porn, but at Notre Dame, as a Catholic University, we can’t be the ones supporting it. We need to say that we’re against it and be at the forefront of the problem,” Ellis stated.
One senator argued that there might be better methods to combat pornography use.
“I would question whether or not it would be better to bolster counseling services, which would then eliminate the coping mechanism that pornography provides to some people,” the Senator said.
Another senator pushed back against this notion, however.
“It’s not like there’s a trade-off that you can only ban porn or invest in counseling. There’s a path in which both of those can be taken,” he said.
Some senators were hesitant with setting a precedent of legislating based on the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
“I think this sets us down a tricky path with supporting all of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” one Senator said. “I just think this sets a bad precedent.”
Ellis, though, made the case that is necessary for the Senate to pass laws that are in line with Catholic teachings.
“It would set the correct precedent that we are aligning with the University’s values,” Ellis said.
The senate decided that the voting on the resolution would be in a closed vote format done via a google form as opposed to an open vote done by the raising of hands, which is not a common occurrence.
In the end, 24 senators voted against the resolution, with 11 supporting it.
Earlier in Wednesday’s Senate meeting, resolution SO 2223 – 26, which amends the impeachment process for senators, was passed unanimously. The bill was introduced by Knott Hall senator Griffin McAndrew and Carroll Hall senator Hunter Brooke. Brooke had a bill of impeachment brought against him in December for advertising a senatorial aide position that allegedly violated the University constitution. Ultimately, The Senate chose not to impeach Brooke.
The amendment will now allow bills of impeachment to be heard during separate sessions of the senate.
“It’s essentially giving more flexibility for when the meeting for impeachment will be held,” McAndrew explained. “We were all there when the bill of impeachment was heard. That was a total mess. We had other important resolutions on the agenda that night that didn’t get heard.”
The senate adjourned for the evening and will return after spring break.