God’s given us the choice of whether we’re going to be sinners or not, you know! (Paul Browne, Vice President Communications, explaining why Notre Dame doesn’t filter Internet pornography it transmits to students.)
We reproduce below a moderately shortened letter from some 90 “Men of Notre Dame” presenting their petition to the University to install a pornography filter on the Notre Dame Wi-Fi network, together with an endorsement by some 70 “Women of Notre Dame.” (The complete documents are here and here.)
The students have collected over 1,000 signatures so far, mainly from fellow students.
We urge you to add your names here or below and to spread the word about this praiseworthy student effort.
As matters stand, the University funnels a tsunami of Internet pornography to students 24/7 through its Internet service without using available means to reduce the flow. This is plainly unacceptable for a Catholic university. As the Catechism teaches:
[Pornography] offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.
The petition grew out a weeklong program on pornography initiated by the student organization SCOP (Students for Child Oriented Policy) and co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Right to Life, the Irish Rover, and Militia Immaculata.
This was the third year for the program. Sycamore Trust is proud to be have been a contributing sponsor, as we were proud to have played a role in the establishment of SCOP in 2014 when the University denied its application for recognition in the wake of protests to SCOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage. We denounced the University’s action; adverse publicity mounted; the SCOP students persisted; and the University finally relented.
Several years ago we anticipated the current student petition by exposing Notre Dame’s role as the conduit for a torrent of pornography to students, but to no effect. The University said there was no need to do anything because it has a rule against students’ viewing Internet pornography and the “University relies on the integrity of our students to abide by” that rule.
So far the situation seems unchanged. The University spokesperson, Paul Browne, told the Observer the University “presently has no plans to implement a filter.” He explained:
I would hope and expect that the people within our WiFi capabilities would be self-censors.
As with contraceptives, the University hands it out while saying “but don’t use it.” It is stupendously silly to pretend this has the slightest effect.
Perhaps sensing the weightlessness of what he had just said, Browne added:
God’s given us the choice of whether we’re going to be sinners or not, you know?
No denying that. But no denying either that God’s given the Notre Dame administration the choice whether or not to aid and abet students in becoming sinners. As if in anticipation of Mr. Browne’s rationalization, Jesus declared in remarkably apt words:
Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for hm to cause one of these little ones to sin. (Lk 16:1-3)
The real reason for the administration’s hands-off attitude almost surely is rooted in the pervasive attitude in higher education toward students, present and prospective, as consumers to be, if not always gratified, at least not rankled.
A porn filter might be widely unpopular. Notre Dame would likely be seen by some, perhaps many, as prudish, dorm life as austere. It has evidently been of no account so far that others would see Notre Dame as an authentically Catholic school concerned with the moral formation of its students.
Which sort of student should Notre Dame want to attract? That should be a rhetorical question. The University’s policy suggests it isn’t.
The students’ petition has gained a good deal of national attention. Enough is Enough, a prominent anti-pornography organization, quickly collected over 3,000 signatures on a petition supporting the Notre Dame students. And the movement is catching on. Led by Notre Dame students, students at more than 40 other schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Pennsylvania, want to follow suit. The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorialized:
Notre Dame’s fighting ability on the gridiron is legendary. It’s good to know its students are also warriors for dignity and respect.
What an embarrassment it will be if the administration lets them down!
Letter published in The Observer October 23, 2018
The men of Notre Dame request a porn filter
As the men of Notre Dame, we request that the University implement a filter to make pornography inaccessible on the Notre Dame Wi-Fi networks. This filter would send the 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.
A survey in 2013 showed that 63 percent of male Notre Dame students have viewed pornography on the university Wi-Fi network. National studies have demonstrated 64 percent of college men and 18 percent of college women spend time viewing online porn each week. In a given month, 86 percent of men interact with pornography.
Porn is not acting. The overwhelming majority of pornography is literally filmed violence against women. Pornography exploits the men and women involved, advances a twisted narrative about human sexuality and harms those who consume it.[P]ornography 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. [M]any organizations worldwide have taken the simple step of internet filtering. Unfortunately, Notre Dame has yet to take this step. The Notre Dame Internet Compliance Policy prohibits the access of pornographic material, but the University has not enforced this policy.
As a university that champions social justice, human rights, equality and dignity, Notre Dame ought to block pornography. Doing so [would[ represent 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 cultural issue that needs changing.
A filter on pornography might not end its use on campus, but it would significantly erode its presence. With a filter, every time students attempt to access pornography, they would encounter Notre Dame’s message that pornography is destructive and exploitive.
We encourage you to sign the online petition to filter out pornography at bit.ly/ndpornfilter — we hope you will stand with us and the 1,000 students, faculty and staff who have already pledged their support.
President, Students for Child-Oriented Policy
[and 80 additional students]
Letter Published in The Observe October 24, 2018
Women of ND response to men’s request for a filter.
Dear Men of Notre Dame,
As the women of Notre Dame, we stand in solidarity with your request to filter out pornography on Notre Dame’s wireless Internet networks.
Every human person is worthy of the utmost dignity and respect. Pornography use at Notre Dame threatens this respect by preventing men and women from encountering the full personhood of one another in friendships and relationships. How? Pornography propagates a mindset that people, especially women, are mere sex objects.
The wide consumption of pornography does irreparable harm to relationships between Notre Dame men and women. This demeaning and often violent content encourages its users to place the selfish seeking of personal pleasure over the development of committed relationships. It makes people believe human connection consists of fleeting sexual intensity opened and closed as easily as a web browser. Thus, it essentially takes away the ability to love. It should not surprise us that infidelity rates dramatically increase and divorce rates skyrocket when one partner frequently uses pornography.
In an era when sexual assault is pervasive and women fight to make their voices heard, we must face the fact that pornography use is often correlated with sexual assault. As sexual assault has occurred all too frequently at Notre Dame — 21 percent of Notre Dame women and 4 percent of Notre Dame men have experienced “non-consensual sexual contact” while a student, according to a 2016 University-conducted survey — it is critical we attack the root of this culture of perversion and degradation.
Notre Dame already prohibits the viewing of pornographic material on campus Wi-Fi. But this rule is rarely, if ever, enforced. If a filter of the top-25 pornographic sites were implemented, everyone who accesses pornography on campus would immediately be told that Notre Dame does not stand for such content.
A filter would by no means eliminate the viewing of pornography on campus. However, a filter would cause some students to contemplate why the use of pornography is wrong. For others who are working to overcome an addiction to pornography, a filter could incite them to stop themselves whenever temptation strikes. Others might not even bother with pornography if they have to navigate around the filter to find unblocked material.
We want a filter because we want to be seen and treated by our Notre Dame brothers for who we are: their sisters in Christ who are worthy of the greatest dignity and respect. We want a filter because we want to eliminate sexual assault and sexual abuse on our campus. We want a filter because we care deeply about Notre Dame students — including women — who struggle with pornography addictions.
As women who respect ourselves and want to help men respect us, we stand against pornography. Our Lady’s University should do the same.
We encourage you to sign the online petition to filter out pornography at bit.ly/ndpornfilter— we hope you will stand with us and the 1,000 students, faculty and staff who have already pledged their support.
The Women of Notre Dame
Vice President of Students for Child-Oriented Policy
[and an additional 67 students]
ABC Nightline interviewed Notre Dame student Jim Martinson and several of his associates on their campus anti-pornography campaign for its feature “Renewed Pushback Against Online Porn.”
The program centers on Tumblr’s decision to ban adult content on its social networking site and the Notre Dame student petition to the University to install a filter that would stop the use of pornography on its Wi-Fi.
You can view the Notre Dame student portion of the Nightline program below and the full segment on ABC here.
In whatever way you have been able to support our common purpose — by giving of your time (especially in prayer), talent, or treasure — we are all very truly grateful. We hope you will continue to support Sycamore Trust and as you can and consider contributing to our Annual Campaign by clicking on the “Support Sycamore” button below. Our effectiveness depends in substantial measure on our resources, which you can be sure we are all very grateful for and encouraged by, large or small.
You don’t need to be a student to support their request for a pornography filter on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi. To add your name to the students’ online petition, please click on the image below.