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Senator Raises Questions About Speaker Policy

March 23, 2010

Arlen Specter, a democratic Senator from Pennsylvania spoke at a College Democrats sponsored event on Monday, March 15.

Specter is known for his pro-death penalty and pro-choice stance yet slipped through the University’s strict speaker policy which requires that speakers align with the mission of the Catholic Church.

Specter was invited to speak at a meeting of a registered student organization on campus, and not as a guest of the University, said University spokesman Victor Nakas.

Any speaker that is brought on campus must go through a process of evaluation by the Director of Campus Activities, Bill Jonas. It requires a few weeks of research and a 1-5 page double spaced submission about the speaker in question.

President of the College Democrats, Erin Kilroy, said they knew Specter would be tough to pass through the speaker policy and handled the situation accordingly.

“We made acknowledgements of what they wouldn’t be happy about and we were very upfront about red fl ags,” said Kilroy. “It took a few
months while the Office of Campus Activities thought about it.”

The issue was especially difficult because Specter is planning on running for re-election this year. According to the University student political policy, the University President must grant permission for a candidate running office to speak on campus.

“I argued that a politician is always running for re-election,” said Kilroy.

Specter was finally cleared to speak at the University because his pro-choice leanings weren’t absolute. “He had a mixed record because he votes bill by bill and not always pro-choice,” said Kilroy. “It’s not a nail in the coffin because he’s very moderate.”

However, the University was not entirely confident in their decision. The CD’s placed a banner announcing Specter’s speech in the Pryzbyla Center which was removed by the University on Monday and placed in Hannan Hall. Kilroy said it was taken down because the University didn’t want the Board of Trustees, who met earlier this week, to see the banner. Jonas declined to comment.

“The banner being placed in Hannan was a good compromise and we were happy with it,” said Kilroy, “but it was frustrating.”

The University has suffered much controversy about its speaker policy in the past. Most recently, in 2004, actor and director Stanley Tucci was banned from speaking on campus because he was known to support the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

This has partly stemmed from standards set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in a document published in June 2004
which stated that those who defy Catholic moral principles “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Originally published in the March 19 issue of The Tower

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