Soviet-Style Vincentians

Soviet-Style Vincentians
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On this year's fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, thirteen Women's and Gender Studies students trashed a Young Americans for Freedom "Flags for Life" display on DePaul University's campus because they were "offended." They upended five hundred pink and blue flags representing aborted babies and stuffed them in nearby trashcans. Kristopher Del Campo and his friends were left to pick up the pieces.

After Young America's Foundation published the vandals' names, the University pursued disciplinary sanctions against Del Campo. He was told that in having anything to do with the release of the names, he engaged in "Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others."

"Punishing a student for naming those who committed a crime against him or her sets a very dangerous precedent," says the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. "For example, would DePaul punish a female student for telling her friends to avoid a person who admitted to sexually assaulting her?"

Del Campo certainly wasn't sexually assaulted, but he is a victim. He's been censored, bullied, and now sanctioned. Ron Robinson, President of Young America's Foundation, agrees, suggesting that DePaul "put [Del Campo] through a Soviet-style show trial."

In a clumsy attempt to explain DePaul v. Del Campo, DePaul's Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Summers invoked the Guiding Principles on Free Speech and Expression which defines the University as a "community of speakers and listeners marked by compassion and mutual respect, a community in which we never lose sight of the potential effects, both beneficial and harmful, of our words and of our expressive conduct."

Summers's mentioning of the Guiding Principles is curious, not only because while I was a DePaul student Cindy and I served on the Task Force which drafted the Principles, but also because the vandalism was clearly an act of censorship.

Cindy should remember the several drafts we worked through in producing the Guiding Principles. The language of the first draft opened the doors of the University to all ideas -- as it should. It was eloquent in its commitment to "ennoble the God-given dignity of each person" and promised "open discourse and robust debate" by requiring the University to remain "open to a broad range of ideas and opinions" as a way to "create the best conditions for discovering the truth." Most importantly, the Principles were not patronizing and they respected the "right of listeners to respond with their own expression, or choose to turn away."

However, before releasing the draft to the University community for comment, the Task Force voted to remove the words "God-given" from the Guiding Principles. It also removed the phrases "create the best conditions for discovering the truth" and "choose to turn away." When I publicly rejected these edits, I was removed from the Task Force.

The Principles invert the definition of free speech in noting that there is "a distinction between being provocative and being hurtful," and condemning speech whose "purpose is to wound." Instead of protecting the right of the speaker to speak, DePaul seeks to protect the listener from being "hurt." As I've argued before, this is part and parcel of the alternate universe DePaul's President calls a "welcoming environment."

Is there any wonder as to why thirteen children thought it was within their rights to censor speech they didn't like?

Back on DePaul's Lincoln Park campus, Del Campo is busy writing a required letter to himself as part of an absurd "Educational Project." For in keeping with the Guiding Principles, the University "must respond" to controversial or offensive speech "by reasserting our fundamental values and by fostering educational opportunities, where appropriate."

Read: if you have the wrong ideas, the University will re-educate you with the right ones.

Nicholas G. Hahn III is the editor of RealClearReligion. Follow him on Twitter @NGHahn3.

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