Friday, January 20, 2006

Monologues stuff

I know, I know - I'm obsessed. Well, with keeping the Monologues of Notre Dame's campus, anyway. Here's Amy Welborn on her distaste for "V-Day" stuff. She says it so well.

Here's the link to the V-Monologues website, but for those not used to women degrading women while masquarading as liberators, be forewarned, it's disgusting.

Oh yeah...and the English Department at ND received this email yesterday, urging them to attend Fr. Jenkins' talk, stating that this address might be a "defining moment" on Notre Dame's campus:

Dear English Colleagues,

You've no doubt seen the announcement about the upcoming speech by our University President to be presented Monday 1/23 at 4:30pm at the DPAC. I want to urge as many faculty as possible to attend the talk, especially given our departmental discussion of sponsorship of The Vagina Monologues held back in December. I think it is safe to say that this has the potential to be a defining moment in the development of our University, and that the relationship between "Academic Freedom and Our Catholic Character" (to use the title of Jenkins's talk) will be crucial to that development. It's worth mentioning that Jenkins is presenting another lecture, this one to the students and titled "Academic Freedom and Catholic Character." It is scheduled for the following day, 12:30-1:45pm, in Washington Hall. (I don't have a reading of the significance of the omission of the "our" in the students' talk). If you're teaching at that time, you might consider giving students who are interested permission to leave class to attend. I'd also like to call attention to some relevant documents that are available for your perusal on the Web. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has been centrally concerned with questions and standards of academic freedom since at least 1940. Their main site on the issue is: Many of the organization's statements are focused specifically on faculty, and in particular on tenure issues. My sense of the situation here at Notre Dame is that individual faculty members' academic freedom is not in question. And I don't think there is likely to be a challenge to the idea that students have academic freedom in the classroom (I very much hope not to be proven wrong on these points by anything in the speeches next week). What is less often discussed is students' academic freedom, especially insofar as that concept applies outside the classroom. As you'll see from the quotations I'm pasting below, the AAUP believes that the protection of academic freedom extends to students, and that it includes activities beyond the classroom, including "films, exhibitions, and performances." As Undergraduate Director, I want to call your attention to this issue. We should care about it simply for the sake of our students, but it also has some bearing on our own, collective academic freedom, as evinced by our departmental vote to sponsor the Vagina Monologues. The AAUP has since at least 1967 emphasized the connection between student academic freedom and the larger issue of academic freedom, as in the statement you will find at:

Perhaps most pertinently, paragraph 2(b) under "Student Affairs" reads: "Students should be allowed to invite and to hear any person of their own choosing. Those routine procedures required by an institution before a guest speaker is invited to appear on campus should be designed only to ensure that there is orderly scheduling of facilities and adequate preparation for the event, and that the occasion is conducted in a manner appropriate to an academic community. The institutional control of campus facilities should not be used as a device of censorship. It should be made clear to the academic and larger community that sponsorship of guest speakers does not necessarily imply approval or endorsement of the views expressed, either by the sponsoring group or by the institution."

And the footnote to that paragraph reads: "The events referred to in this section should be understood to include the full range of student-sponsored activities, such as films, exhibitions, and performances."

Browsing the AAUP site, you will find not just the organization's official statements about these issues, but also a range of articles about them, from a wide range of perspectives. These also include some discussions of academic freedom at Catholic colleges and universities. I hope to see many colleagues at the President's speech, and that it and the ensuing discussion are lively and productive.

I was struck, first of all, at how this director doesn't realize how irrelevant the AAUP's opinions are in relation to academic freedom at a Catholic institution. Catholicism changes the nature of academic freedom, for the simple reason that the Catholic Church and its institutions must search for the truth while already being secure in possessing the Truth. It's a different sort of dynamic, if you will.


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