In a letter to the editor of Notre Dame’s student newspaper, approximately 80 male undergrads and grad students have asked the university to filter pornography from its Wi-Fi networks.
Here’s some of what they wrote to The Observer:
This filter would send the unequivocal message that pornography is an affront to human rights and catastrophic to individuals and relationships. We are calling for this action in order to stand up for the dignity of all people, especially women.
In addition, 1,000 other students, faculty and staff members have pledged their support for this effort. On top of that, 68 female students have penned a letter of solidarity, writing that “pornography propagates a mindset that people, especially women, are mere sex objects.”
How wonderful that these young men and women understand the harms of pornography and are actually asking their Catholic university to do something about it.
First, they understand the pervasiveness of porn. Their letter cites a survey conducted in 2013 showing that 63 percent of male students at Notre Dame viewed porn on the university’s Wi-Fi network. National surveys show that 64% of college men and 18% of college women view online pornography every week.
Second, they recognize the dangers of porn:
Pornography is associated with a host of issues: addiction, child sexual abuse, divorce, male fertility problems, sexual assault and the acceptance, normalization and sexualization of cruelty towards women. It contributes to prostitution, human trafficking and the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases.
The fact is that even if Notre Dame installed such a filter, students could still access porn via other Internet sources. Nonetheless, it’s an opportunity for the university to take a stand. “With a filter, every time students attempt to access pornography, they would encounter Notre Dame’s enduring message that pornography is destructive and exploitive,” the letter points out.
A piece at National Review puts it this way: “Universities are responsible for cultivating their students’ interest in the humanizing truths by exposing them to reason that transcends vulgarity and that shapes boundaries. They are also responsible for what they choose not to expose their students to.” And shouldn’t Catholic universities be even more responsible for what they expose their students to?
As one example, the College of the Holy Cross uses a web filter to block access to pornographic content.
According to Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for public affairs and communications, the University has no plans to implement a porn-blocking filter. “It’s hard to argue with the motives of this group in wanting to censor,” Browne said. “But I would hope and expect that the standards are such at the University that the people within our Wi-Fi capabilities would be self-censors…God’s given us the choice of whether we’re going to be sinners or not, you know?”
What a pathetic abdication of responsibility. What a missed opportunity to do the right thing.
One of the final paragraphs of the original letter from the male students provides a powerful rebuke to Browne’s weak-kneed response:
As a university that champions social justice, human rights, equality and dignity, Notre Dame ought to block pornography using the technology available to us. Doing so represents both an attempt to eradicate pornography from the campus culture and, more broadly, a strong stance against sexual assault, sex trafficking and other human rights violations. We have come to expect our school to be a driving force for cultural change in our nation, and pornography is a culture issue that needs changing.
Take that, Notre Dame!