The new University of Notre Dame president questioned Monday whether controversial events should take place on campus or be sponsored by university departments. Among these are "The Vagina Monologues" and a Queer Film Festival which have been held each year on campus the past few years.
The matter was discussed on Monday by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins during a speech to faculty members and plans to address students on Tuesday. He said also wants to hear from alumni.
Rev. John I. Jenkins took over as president of the Roman Catholic school on July 1. He did not say he would cancel the events, but is scaling back both events.
He told the faculty he worried that sponsorship by university departments indicated a certain level of acceptance. As an example, he said the school would face questions if it were to sponsor a play that was anti-Semitic.
"A reasonable observer would assume that the university is sponsoring an event that, in fact, is clearly and egregiously at odds with its values as a Catholic university," he said.
He said events that are inconsistent with Catholic values should not be allowed at Notre Dame.
Rev. Jenkins’ reflection on the posture a Catholic University towards these events happening on campus caused many to react in favor or against such a proposal.
Margaret Doody, an English professor, said the university should be a place for freedom and that higher education had already been through a period where research and thinking were restrained.
"It was known as McCarthyism," she said.
But others praised Jenkins for taking up the issue. Margot O'Brien, who teaches in the accounting department, said plays such as "The Vagina Monologues" had no place at Notre Dame.
"It is a matter of treating something that is evil as good, and that's just wrong," she said.
Jenkins said he wasn't surprised by the responses.
"People have strong feelings about this and there are strong differences of opinions," he said.
Jenkins, who was a top Notre Dame administrator for four years before becoming president, told the faculty members he supported academic freedom -- calling it essential to the university -- but said academic freedom has limits.
"I do not believe that freedom of expression has absolute priority in every circumstance," he said. "While any restriction on expression must be reluctant and restrained, I believe that, in some situations, given the distinctive character and aspirations of Notre Dame, it may be necessary to establish certain boundaries, while defending the appropriate exercise of academic freedom."