What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 16, 2011

I Guess There Are Some Limits To "Diversity"

Yesterday, an astute reader emailed in this story from the Duquesne Duke:
A Nov. 6 Student Government Association committee decision barred the official creation of a student secular society, an organization that wants to open discussion between religious and nontheistic students about the existence of God.

The proposed Duquesne Secular Society is the brainchild of Nick Shadowen, a senior philosophy major, and Colin Stragar-Rice, a junior philosophy and political science major. The DSS was proposed as a group for students who don't believe in God, such as atheists and agnostics, as well as for religious students.
The reason for the barring? Take a look:
The six to eight senators who made up the group unanimously voted Sunday night not to bring the DSS's approval to a vote in front of the general SGA Senate, according to SGA President Zach Ziegler.

Zeigler said the DSS was denied mainly because it does not comply with Duquesne's Mission Statement.

"This organization has a non-faith-based agenda," Ziegler said. "We never got a real idea what was behind this organization."
Ah now we're getting somewhere. What is Duquesne's Mission Statement? Here it is:
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit is a Catholic University, founded by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritans, and sustained through a partnership of laity and religious. Duquesne serves God by 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.
I guess there are limits to how "open to diversity" the Student Government is and I surmise SGA President Zach gives one one criteria for the limits when he says that the DSS "has a non-faith-based agenda."  And then we have:
The Rev. James McCloskey, vice president for Mission and Identity, agreed with Ziegler that the DSS is not a viable student organization for Duquesne.

"They [the DSS] assume positions that are antithetical to belief in God, and belief in God is at the core of our enterprise at Duquesnse," McCloskey said.
Funny thing, though. When you take a look at the other organizations the SGA has approved, you might think that those same rules might not apply.  Again, The Duke:
Duquesne allowed the creation of other student organizations that do not adhere to Christian doctrine. The Muslim Student Association and Jewish Student Organization are viable funded student groups under Spiritan Campus Ministry. Duquesne also allowed the organization of Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance in 2005, even though at the time some Catholic students protested that the organization contradicted the University mission statement because the Catholic Church does not support homosexual relationships.
I am not (NOT) saying that those organizations (or any of the others on Duquesne's list of approved multicultural organizations) aren't fine organizations or that they should not get the full support of the SGA.

I am sure they are and I am sure they should.

What I am saying is that an organization, such as the DSS, whose Constitution says that its intent is to:
...provide a platform for honest and open debate on the merits of secularism and its role in different areas on human society. The DSS encourages respectful relations between non-theistic … and theistic students and through these relationships hopes to alleviate the various stigmas attached to nonbelievers. [emphasis added]
Is probably something that should be encouraged on a college campus - yes even on a religious college campus.  Clamping down on an idea rather than discussing it is no way for an enlightened community to act.

If it's an "open and honest debate" then what's the problem?  Isn't that what a university education is all about?


Anonymous said...

Wow. I see that is proposed by a senior philosophy major. If they can't have this kind of philosophical debate, then why even have a philosophy major? Sounds like a return to dark ages when certain assumptions could not be questioned.

Ol' Froth said...

I see that Duquene has no problem accepting the tuition money of atheists and agnostics!

Nicole Currivan said...

I am agnostic, and I attended Duquesne University for 1.5 years as an undergraduate. Over time the highly religious culture made me feel totally unwelcome, and I ended up leaving. One of my classmates from Kenya felt Duquesne had underrepresented the extent of their religious mission to applicants; she stated that she would not have picked Duquesne if she had known more about its Catholic focus, citing problems with AIDS and population control in her country related to Catholics urging people not to use condoms. In short, Duquesne presents itself to applicants as ecumenical and diverse, but true diversity or dissent of opinion is neither supported nor appreciated. They would do well to treat this application fairly and allow DSS, to demonstrate their purported openness to critical thinking. It is wrong to deny an underserved minority of their students the right to build a sense of community.
Nicole Currivan
Organizer, Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers

Winding down said...

Surprise...Duquesne Univ...who da thunk..a highly
religious christian Catholic culture...look before you leap...or spend your tuition money..

What does formal recognition by the student senate to organize get secularists...a room to meet in?

Clyde Wynant said...

I honestly think this is a tempest in a teapot. In this day and age, when teens are texting 24/7 and information is ubiquitous, it doesn't seem to me that it would be that hard for a potential Duquesne student to "get a sense" of the university and its Catholic underpinnings. I mean, would you go to Oral Roberts U and expect to happily undertake the LGBT Fun Fest?

Let's get back to politics. What's up with Corbett and PSU? Is there a bigger story there?

Lefty said...

You voluntarily enroll in a Catholic University and you don't like their religious undertones - Oh well, get over it. Silly

Anonymous said...

Duquesne U has the right to be jerks and we have the right to complain.

Duquesne should quit all the double-speak about respecting diversity. Furthermore, by allowing a Jewish and a Muslim group, they are alienating secular students, who are no less "Catholic".

DePaul, another Catholic U, has a thriving secular group on campus. Any university worth attending should encourage discussion and debate on philosophical and social issues. Why can't Duquesne?

Nicole Currivan said...

Unsurprisingly, people have made plenty of assumptions in their reactions to my post. First, I went to Duquesne in 1998, when the Peterson's guide and a tour was all you could get. I know plenty of people who didn't get a true sense of their university from a tour or even from meeting with students. Second, like many 17-year-olds I was not certain of my beliefs at the time.

Closed environments promote neither personal development nor the maturity required to engage responsibly in society. Private schools still accept federal money in the form of research grants, scholarships, tuition assistance, and tax exemptions. If they don't want to encourage free speech and a safe environment for people to learn about themselves, let them go without it.