NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY is banning students from establishing left-wing political clubs on campus, saying they run counter to its religious foundations.
Never mind that Jesus fed the poor, healed the sick and raged at the moneylenders, last week the Catholic university rejected Chris Jenkins’ application to start a club affiliated to Socialist Alliance.
Student branches of the Labor and Liberal parties are, however, welcome, as is “Lord” Christopher Monckton, the climate change denier who spoke at the Fremantle campus in 2011. The university defended his appearance on the grounds of free speech.
“All I was told was we didn’t fit in with the uni’s Catholic social teachings,” Mr Jenkins told the Herald. The nursing studies student says last year Notre Dame also shut down a refugee forum.
“We were basically told the meeting was forbidden and to leave the campus grounds.”
Fremantle councillor Sam Wainwright, a senior member of the Socialist Alliance in WA, sprinted down to the West End campus when he heard socialist students might be told to pack up their stall and move along.
“I wanted to make sure I was here, because this is a public footpath,” he told the Herald. “It’s up to council to decide what it can be used for, not the university.
“It is utterly beyond me why the university can’t relax and let an independent student life exist and flourish, which is what I would’ve thought was a necessary part of a healthy university culture. It’s like Notre Dame wants to protect some corporate image.”
A Facebook page called Students for Free Speech at Notre Dame reveals the university has been censoring medical clubs too. Shane Bowra posted the Medical Students’ Association had been deregistered as a club by the university’s Student Life Office (SLO) because its constitution included support for abortion on medical grounds.
“Debate and discussion of issues such as abortion and contraception have been shut down even in nursing classes, where discussing these issues is surely an important part of training,” he said.
The Herald has been told the university has also banned UN Women Australia and Amnesty from SLO registration.
Notre Dame media handler Leigh Dawson says the issue is “formal affiliation with the student association”.
“While in some instances formal affiliation may not be granted, this does not indicate that the university does not recognise the importance of the work undertaken by the organisation in many areas.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER