It seems that the Ann Coulter controversy at Fordham University continues to affect – if not haunt – the Catholic, Jesuit university. A few of weeks ago, just one week after it was announced that Ann Coulter was invited and then that invitation was rescinded, Peter Singer was given a spot to speak on a panel that was held at and sponsored by the university.
I’ll admit that I was slightly disheartened at first to read that Campus Notes, the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) blog, was covering this controversy at Fordham. What it entails is a group of faculty at Fordham University Law School arguing that since Father McShane did not cancel the Ann Coulter event, the university should provide funding for pro-abortion groups and The Vagina Monologues. Tracy Higgins, professor at the law school, and Bridgette Dunlap, who is known for her involvement in reproductive rights groups and is a human rights fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, wrote an open letter to Father McShane, which is included in the linked article.
It is true that Father McShane did express “disgust” in the College Republicans for inviting Ann Coulter to campus, but he did not cancel the event. The decision to rescind the invitation was made by the College Republicans Executive Board. It was perhaps questionable to invite Ann Coulter, and the College Republicans did realize this. I am not trying to rehash the Ann Coulter controversy, which has been explained sufficiently enough in the article regarding Peter Singer, but it is important to put the matter into context, in order to explain why the faculty group’s logic is so faulty.
Again, perhaps it was questionable that Ann Coulter was invited. It is my opinion, however, as a supporter of the event, that Ann Coulter has the ability to formulate what she would say to be suitable for an academic setting. She can be funny and insightful while still being appropriate and respectful.
On the other hand, it is not questionable in the slightest as to whether or not The Vagina Monologues should receive university funding. The Observer, a Lincoln Center student publication, describes the play as “a controversial event by Fordham undergraduates each year to raise awareness of violence against women.” Such a description almost paints those who oppose such “a controversial event” as against events which “raise awareness of violence against women.” But being against such an offensive play is hardly all about that. While the play has different versions, one version includes lesbian pedophilia and molestation. And there is more offensiveness where that came from, considering playwright Eve Ensler’s views on abortion and the Republican Party.
The open letter to Father McShane mentions and bemoans the fact that “… Fordham’s anti-abortion club receives funding while pro-choice advocacy is censored.”
Now, this “anti-abortion club” at Fordham is a highly respected and esteemed group on campus named Respect for Life (RFL). It was awarded Club of the Year in 2010 by United Student Government (USG). The club also deals with issues such as the death penalty, euthanasia, suicide prevention, and sex-trafficking. As I explained to a frustrated RFL member on Facebook, it says a lot about the respect (or lack thereof) abortion advocates have for the other side when they call the pro-life side “anti-abortion” while cloaking themselves in such glorious terms as “pro-choice advocacy.”
We do not have a pro-choice group on campus, but we do have a Progressive Students for Justice club, which includes Women’s Empowerment. In 2010 and 2011, Women’s Empowerment held a counter-event to our Respect for Life week, known as “Complicate the Issue,” which included pro-abortion information. The satirical and often offensive publication group The Paper has also oftentimes mocked the Respect for Life club, as well as other clubs and students they do not agree with, and in so doing shows its support for the pro-choice movement.
Apparently this is not enough for Higgins and Dunlap. But it should be a no-brainer, though, as to why “pro-choice advocacy is censored” on campus. Fordham University, though not without its controversies and issues, is still a Catholic and Jesuit university, which has a duty to uphold Catholic and Jesuit teaching. So it is not so much about censoring or leaving out anybody as it is about upholding such teaching. This includes a pro-life view. Fordham accepts students and hires faculty of different viewpoints, as evidenced by the hiring of Higgins and Dunlap. That being said, though, such faculty members surely have the opportunities and credentials to apply to a university more in line with their viewpoints. In fact, one wonders if such faculty, like Higgins and Dunlap, are at Fordham in part to merely cause trouble and usurp Catholic and Jesuit viewpoints.
According to The Observer in quoting Dunlap:
“I think that’s pretty problematic and not reflective of the kind of place Fordham is,” Dunlap said of Fordham’s discrimination between forms of student involvement.” Fordham is a place where we have scholarship and debate and respectful discussion of different ideas. So, we shouldn’t be silencing the legitimate conversations that we ought to be having.”
Dunlap may think this way about Fordham, but she is wrong. To reiterate, Fordham is still a Jesuit and Catholic university, where pro-life views are held in high regard and are upheld. I have had my issues with Fordham in the past, but I do have faith and hope in Father McShane and the administration in this instance. I pray that Fordham will not let me down here with this and will not cave in to funding The Vagina Monologues (which they are gracious enough to even permit) or “pro-choice advocacy” groups.