Friday, November 29, 2013

Will Lack of Catholic ID Get Duquesne University Into Trouble ?- First Amendment Values Problems


Let me state I have don't know a hill of beans about Duquesne University . It could be like Georgetown University where a Arab student that had been attending Georgetown learned from the first time from me via twitter that Georgetown was Catholic. On the other hand it could be so Catholic in its ethos it puts Belmont Abbey to shame.

What I am focusing on is its official  rules of conduct and regulations.

Which bring us to this interesting story from F.I.R.E that seems to be watching this situation closely. See Political Poster Banned at Duquesne University .

As F.I.R.E says in part :

FIRE is proudly nonpartisan and takes no position on the claims asserted in the poster. We do, however, take a position on students’ right to express political opinions: We are unabashedly in favor of those rights. As a private institution, Duquesne University is not legally bound by the First Amendment, but it is morally and contractually bound to provide its students with free speech rights in accordance with the promises it makes in its Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct (PDF).

See above link at F.I.R.E to see those promises.

Now I am not sure why the administration banned this poster . According to the person that put the poster up she was told by someone  the images were " too upsetting: " .

A lot of things of course are upsetting and a good bit speech that is protected is aimed at being upsetting..  For the record I am not sure that image while thought provoking is in this day and age going to cause a lot of emotional drama to your average college students. I have seen worse things on regular network TV. This all makes me think something else is going on.

 I suspect a possible reason  the poster was taken down was because of theological / political dynamics. What some folks call " leftist ideas "  along with  many progressive social movements have a long tradition in some aspects of the Catholic Church. Thus we might when all things are said and done have a Catholic sensibility argument by the University.

Also  I have little doubt that the people behind this poster a combination of the College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation might also disturb some powers that be on different political and religious levels

Now the University might be saved by the section on publications that is referred to  in the code of student rights that is right after the section F.I.R.E cites.

This publication section refers back to the Mission Statement that seems rather perhaps too  vague as to Catholic ID . It is about the only place where the religious nature of the University is mentioned in the entire Code which is s part of the bigger problem.

Again I am not sure exactly what the true reason this poster is banned , but if it is because it offends Catholic sensibilities in the eyes of the College the code of conduct should be revamped to make the Catholic ID of the college clearer and what is expected of students.

Let me give an example. I think a Baptist knows what they are getting themselves into when they go to a school like Liberty University. They know if they go to a place like Baylor the rules might be a tad freer to give some more " freedom " . We can go down the line to a school like Wake Forest that has the most loose of Baptist ethos and affiliations. I highly suspect their student codes of conduct reflect this.

We can see this in Catholic colleges. You have Belmont Abbey for instance on one end then places like Catholic University and University of Dallas ( The Catholic Baylors of the world perhaps )  to schools that  promote the Sandra Flukes of the world in official publications. You can often see the Catholic ethos and the responsibilities that entails in the student handbook and rules of conduct which is basically the CONTRACT.

Thankfully in this country private colleges secular and religious have a good bit of freedom to restrict a good bit of First Amendment freedom that a secular school could not.  That is proper and good. I am for some Catholic Colleges not allowing a good many things on their college that happens on a secular college.

 Still if a Catholic ethos , conduct , ethics , etc argument is going to be used in restricting such speech that at the very least needs to be laid out more in the contracts you have with students. As F.I.R.E. states even a private religious  school has moral and INDEED PERHAPS legal contractual obligations in this regard.

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