Catholic U. Extends Speaker Ban To All Political Candidates

This story was written by Ben Newell, The Tower
The Catholic University speaker policy will become more stringent in the period leading up to the presidential election, according to the University Center for Student Programs and Events.

The policy has prohibited clubs from bringing speakers to campus who hold views contrary to the Catholic Church, will now prohibit speakers who are running for office. This includes local, state and national politicians who are up for re-election. It is not clear on whether substitutes, such as campaigner's family members, or advisors would be allowed on campus.

This has been a controversial issue since 2004, when Rev. David M. O'Connell, University president, who initially banned campaigning politicians from speaking on campus, gave a benediction at a Republican Election day celebration, before election results were in. To avoid the appearance of a University endorsement, O'Connell had declared in 2001 that campaigning politicians were not allowed to speak on campus.

Set out in the student life policies, the speakers and presentations policy states that the "Freedom to express oneself...may be constrained in a private university by other values which are held to be equal, greater or prior."

It adds that the University is not required to allow speakers whose values are contrary to those of the Catholic Church, though it concludes "With all presentations, it is understood that speakers...do not necessarily reflect the views and values of the University or of the Roman Catholic Church."

Last August, former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was approved by UCSPE to speak on campus, though The Tower learned a month later that he would not be speaking. According to his aides, there was a scheduling conflict, and he could not appear during the fall, though his press secretary said he wanted to come this spring.

Past speakers include John McCain's campaign advisor Tom Ridge, who is pro-abortion, Ronald Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese, former White House press secretary Tony Snow, Wolf Blitzer, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, anti-war activist representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), and Pollster John Zogby.

The speakers and presentations policy consists of 321 words. It is vague and largely interpreted by the director of UCSPE, a position held by William Jonas. Jonas said that political clubs inviting speakers and politicians to campus does not amount to support for that party's candidates.

"The authority for [deciding who can speak on campus] ultimately rests with the president, as do all other policies," said Jonas. "He designated this responsibility to my position, representing student life,"

Prohibition of speakers running for office will affect the College Democrats and Republicans most.

Republican Chairman Michael Nardi does not support the policy, but understands its purpose.

"It just doesn't make sense to me why candidates for office aren't given access to students," said Nardi. The College Democrats agree.

"While this is the Catholic University...and we do have a specific mission, we should be able to clear speakers who will not tread on Catholic teachings, even if they are candidates," said Joe St. George, chairman of College Democrats.
© 2008 The Tower via U-WIRE
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