Administrators restrict free speech
From Father Theodore Hesburgh's expulsion of five student protesters in 1969 to the present, suppression of free speech on this campus is nothing new.
Last week, we were reminded of that once again.
OUTreachND, the unofficial gay and lesbian student group, was denied club status by the University. They were also told that, in the foreseeable future, no student-led club for homosexuals would be recognized.
On the same day, Student Activities director Joe Cassidy put the Progressive Student Alliance on probation for leafletting without a permit. As a result, the club can now be shut down if another transgression, even a minor one, occurs, and leaders say they plan to quiet its activity.
The University has made some strides in its services for gays and lesbians on campus, but the blanket denial of any and all homosexual student organizations still leaves that segment of our community officially voiceless.
And, while the PSA admits that it failed to register the leafletting, the end result is that one of the few vocal, persistent critics of administration policy will be quieted because the club forgot to tell Bill Kirk that it would have four people distributing pamphlets outside the Joyce Center during Junior Parents Weekend. Probation, in this case, seems to serve not just as a punishment but as a silencer.
These actions follow a path that has been trod before. Two years ago, the Women's Resource Center was placed on probation for making available Planned Parenthood literature. Last February, the University watched silently as students rallied and fasted to support adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause. Then the University announced that the Board of Fellows had already decided not to include the amendment, in a secret early December meeting.
To its credit, Notre Dame maintains an open speakers policy that allows partisans of all stripes to address students on campus.Although demonstrations against University policy do occur from time to time, the overall atmosphere is one of repression.
And last week serves as a new reminder of that atmosphere.
Administrators can certainly argue that, taken case-by-case, denying OUTreach and punishing the PSA were justified; but taken in the view of history, those actions point to a disturbing trend.
Free speech is merely conditional under the Golden Dome.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, April 17, 2000