New free speech coalition meets
By JASON McFARLEY
Assistant News Editor
Amid waning attendance Thursday night, members of the Coalition for Free Speech discussed means to garner campus support and club sponsorship of the week-old organization.
Seven people attended the second meeting of the newly formed coalition, a number about 1/3 of the attendance figure from the group's founding meeting last Friday. The low turnout prompted some concerns that the issue of free speech might not be catching on among Notre Dame students.
"Ideally, this is the project of several clubs and organizations," said Aaron Kreider, a member of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA). "Right now, we don't have that," he said to a showing comprised primarily of other PSA members as well as philosophy professor Ed Manier.
Kreider said he's hoping for causal endorsement and financial support from various campus organizations, including student government.
Manier cautioned the group that the decreased attendance and lack of campus enthusiasm may not be indicative of the amount of support the coalition can cultivate.
"The fact that people aren't here doesn't mean they're not dedicated to the cause," he said.
Some seemingly believed otherwise, as they discussed using various forms of campus media to publicize the coalition's work and boost student turnout at meetings. In particular, members settled on placing advertisements in The Observer and writing biweekly letters to the editor.
Manier said before any letters are submitted to The Observer, members should consider drafting a mission statement that clearly articulates the organization's goals.
"When you say you want people to know about something, you have to make sure you have a clear sense of what you want them to know about," Manier said.
Throughout the hour-long meeting, members themselves were often unclear about what the mission statement should include.
Manier, for example, spoke about reforming and breaking existing University rules regarding club formation.
He said existing rules stifle innovation and make it difficult to organize groups. The PSA would have never been formed if some rules hadn't been broken, he said.
But senior Brendan Dowdall, Dillon hall senator, said University administrators might respond negatively to a statement that makes mention of any policy violations. Dowdall suggested a forum that would bring students, professors and University officials together to discuss concerns about free speech.
The work by the coalition is in preparation for a proposal the group will present to the Office of Student Affairs in February.
The proposal will highlight areas of free speech in which the coalition believes the University could improve.
Dowdall said it's likely he will also introduce a resolution based on the proposal into the Student Senate by next spring.
"We want to make this a gradual process and slowly build campus support," Dowdall said.
"One of the dangers of throwing this idea right out there is that it could easily be rejected."
All News Stories for Friday, November 3, 2000