BC Requires ‘Catholic Perspective,’ Could Cancel Speakers

Some guest speakers at Boston College (BC) must now face administrative approval, according to a new university policy.

University-funded student groups must provide a “Catholic perspective” with any speaker event offering differing opinions, BC Spokesman Jack Dunn said yesterday. The administration has the right to cancel an event, according to university policy.

Although the BC Student Guide does not state so explicitly, the policy is intended to safeguard “sensitive Catholic subjects,” said Dunn, who cited abortion as the main topic of concern.

“The purpose of the change was to add language that exists in other sections of the Guide to the ‘Speakers’ section, reminding students of their need to respect the Jesuit Catholic values of Boston College when inviting speakers to campus,” said Dunn. “The deans’ intention was not to censor or cancel events.”

Students, however, said that this new policy compounds a problem that has existed for some time.

In response, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) Senate passed a resolution this weekend, condemning the measure and objecting to changes made without student input.

“Hindering discourse in this way undermines the free academic environment that is fundamental for all institutions of higher learning,” the resolution stated. The policy does not apply to guests brought in by faculty, a discrepancy that the resolution also criticizes.

“This language has been in the guide for more than 20 years and has never raised questions,” Dunn said. “It only raised questions this year when it was added to the ‘Speakers’ section.”

The Dean’s Office edited the student guide because “there had been ambiguity before [and the Dean wanted] to reserve the right to request a Catholic perspective,” according to Dunn.

Students said that the revised policy would force them to be more careful.

“We’re cautious about the words we use when we explain why we want to bring a speaker to campus,” said sophomore Emily Plane, co-director of the Women’s Issues Department of the UGBC.

Others said the revised policy would hinder their efforts to gain University approval. Junior Cecilia Fierro, a member of the Women’s Health Initiative, a controversial pro-choice group not sponsored by the university, said that the policy “sets us further behind in a goal for university recognition.”