Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Censorship Possible, But Wrong

Attorney Terrence J. Boyle’s experience and insight may far exceed mine, but as a Law Center student and a recent graduate from a state school where the administration is constitutionally prevented from interfering with student’s rights to express themselves, I believe GU should not violate the underpinnings of fundamental Constitutional principles just because the state does not prevent them from doing so. This is akin to arguing that the school should go around searching the dorms without probable cause (ostensibly to find alcohol or other contraband) because the Fourth Amendment does not apply to GU or saying that GU should expel students without due process because the Fifth Amendment does not apply. Remember that before the 14th Amendment was passed, the Bill of Rights did not even restrict the states, it only restricted Congressional action.

The principle behind preventing the government from regulating speech is that an open dialogue between all parties allows the truth to come out. We need a marketplace of ideas, especially on a university campus. Paternalistic notions of a need to protect students’ virgin eyes from material that Boyle and others may find offensive do not have a place in America. We should be mature enough to recognize untruthful propaganda for what it is. The danger of such filth is often warned of not from anonymous leaflets but from the mainstream media. The public forum must be preserved from intrusion by corporate interests or a school’s administration, especially now that the so-called public airways have been sold to these corporate interests along with nearly every printing press save those on college campuses.

Boyle clearly disagrees with freedom of speech by claiming GU should “dictate what students can or cannot say,” and “prevent students from abusing freedom of speech,” because “that’s what being `a Catholic university’ involves.” He writes that this is “another argument for another day.” But his feelings motivate the article and these words expose the prejudice he feels against allowing people to express themselves in ways he disagrees with. In other words, he is pro-censorship and he believes that any Catholic university should be as well. That argument appears false.

Did not the Jesuit founders of Georgetown come to America to escape persecution for not parroting the line espoused by the Church of England? Surely we can find fault with past intolerances of the Catholic Church, for example when they essentially banned the Jesuit order because it grew too popular in the eyes of some. That does not mean that in modern times “being `a Catholic university'” requires censorship. The Church’s recent forays into seeking the protection of universal human rights have shifted the conception of the Church from a censor to one who tries to protect freedom to speak – such as against communist tyranny and oppression in Poland and Cuba. It seems that the time of all Catholics promoting censorship as a virtue has passed. But I cannot speak for the Catholic community. One would need to poll the very diverse group of Catholics to discover if they collectively feel that censorship is what being a Catholic university involves, as Boyle asserts.

Aaron M. Clemens is a first-year student in the Law School.

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