We demand the right to meet

An editoral by Newswire

Newswire understands the reality of the situation. We understand that there cannot be a university-sanctioned pro-choice club on campus. We understand that to approve or fund such an organization would run counter to Catholic doctrine and, more importantly, would jeopardize the university’s relationship with donors at a time of financial instability and university growth.

So we are not asking for your support anymore.

We are asking for you to look the other way.

As you read this editorial, organization is already underway throughout the student body to create a pro-choice group on campus.

Students are working with national organizing groups and similar student-run organizations at other Catholic and Jesuit colleges and universities to create a group that can ethically, respectfully and productively engage in a diverse dialogue about reproductive justice.

We do not intend to claim association with Xavier University, to co-opt its intellectual property or to attempt to garner official support from the university itself.

We are merely asking for the ability to meet and organize about an issue that is important to members of this community without fear of professional, academic or financial reprisal on behalf of the university administration.  

To do so is not only our right, it is our duty as students at Xavier University to stand up for what we believe in and fight for what we feel is right. We have been taught for years that we must not shy away from difficult discussion, that we must embrace the challenging dialogue.

To do so is not without precedent. Over 25 years ago students at Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution, formed H*yas for Choice to advocate for reproductive justice on campus. While the group had its official status and funding revoked after just a couple years, it has unofficially existed respectfully and successfully in the two decades since. Similar groups have been created in other Catholic Universities including Loyola university New Orleans, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. The two students who started Loyola Chicago’s group now work to help organize such groups nationally.

As the turnout at yesterday’s rally demonstrated — in which over 200 students and faculty members gathered in the middle of the school day — this is an issue that is important to many of the members of this community. Enough so that they would turn out and make their voices heard, just as we have been encouraged to do.

While Xavier heartily promotes “All for one and one for all,” there is an ironic tension with the lack of equal accessibility to meeting and sharing ideas. We cannot truly be “all for one” until all voices can be heard. Although certain views may not be aligned with church teachings, Xavier students are encouraged to exhibit Jesuit values, such as cura personalis, discernment, reflection, and solidarity and kinship, from their first day at Manresa. How are we to exhibit these values while the narrative is not balanced? How are we to exhibit these values if the university itself doesn’t? 

Currently, the only discourse regarding sexual reproductive healthcare on this campus is through the organization Students for Life.

To continue to claim that the university fosters diverse dialogue and discussion — as the Take it On Initiative claims — without allowing students who disagree with the university’s and Catholic church’s official stance on abortion to voice their opinions and meet with like-minded peers would demonstrate a level of immense hypocrisy and amount to censorship of dissenting student voices.

Xavier claims to commit to free speech and expression, as the university’s “Mission and Identity” policy clearly states. 

Xavier University lists seven principles of free speech and expression that must be upheld at the university. Contrary to administrative claims about a pro-choice group running counter to the university’s Catholic tradition, Xavier’s “Mission and Identity” policies state: “Xavier’s distinctive Jesuit Catholic identity and mission inform and enhance free inquiry and engagement of ideas on our campus; they do not limit it.” Similarly, the university claims that “the intellectual life of Xavier ‘has no boundaries and no barriers’ as it ‘draws knowledge and understanding from all the traditions.’” 

If this is all true, if the Unversity truly “adheres to the principle that ‘the whole world of knowledge and ideas must be open to the student; there must be no outlawed books or subjects,’” then why do you continue to halt discussion of pro-choice issues? Xavier University claims to draw knowledge from all traditions; then why are only the Catholic and Jesuit traditions upheld? Why is there no room for the perspectives of students from other faiths, such as Jewish students whose faith explicitly states the right to an abortion and mandates it in cases in which the pregnancy jeopardizes the life of the mother?

The university cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim to foster diverse dialogue, to allow a difference of views, while simultaneously crushing attempts by the student body to do just that.