Monday, January 29, 2007

No podium is worse than one-sided podium 

In an effort perhaps to avoid the partisan battles spreading onto his campus, Duquesne University has banned three politicians as commencement speakers at its law school graduation. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, and Rep. John Murtha, were deemed inappropriate.
Duquesne President Charles Dougherty's decision, based on a new university policy and concerns about partisanship and Catholic Church teachings, has sparked debate on campus and led to circulation of a petition in the law school by students unhappy with it.

...In a letter this week to deans and other leaders on the campus, explaining his decision, Dr. Dougherty cited a policy enacted in June under which Duquesne generally avoids politicians at graduation ceremonies.

"I had two reasons for disapproving the politicians," Dr. Dougherty wrote. "First, I believe that a high-profile partisan political figure is inappropriate for a commencement speaker.

"Anyone of that description, including all three proposed, is sure to offend large numbers in the audience," he said.

"Even if such a speaker steers clear of political content, it makes a political statement that we provided them an occasion and a platform -- and one in which there is no possibility for dialogue or the expression of alternative points of view."

Dr. Dougherty also cited "the likelihood that some or all of these politicians have taken public positions on issues in opposition to Catholic Church teachings."
It has offered these and other politicians other venues for their views, but has done so in places where they can invite opposing viewpoints.

A private religious school of course has the right to decide who can and can't speak on its campus. It's inimical to its mission, however, as a campus that has a mission of
serving students � through commitment to excellence in liberal and professional education, through profound concern for moral and spiritual values, through the maintenance of an ecumenical atmosphere open to diversity, and through service to the Church, the community, the nation, and the world.
How can it maintain an ecumencial atmosphere open to diversity when it fears having commencement speakers that might offend someone?