This week in Villanova History: Senate Rejects Proposed Publications Guidelines

Senate Rejects Proposed Publications Guidelines

By Bob Wesolowski ’74

The Publications Board document “Guidelines for University-supporter Publications,” has been sent back to the Publications Board for revision following a rejection of the document by the University Senate at its meeting on Friday, Sept. 20.

The action by the Senate resulted after disagreements arose over several sections of the document, notably one that, as stated in the Villanovan on Sept. 25, “forbids the printing of material ‘contrary to the accepted moral teaching of a Catholic University’,” thus indicating to those present that the guidelines were not generally acceptable.

Dr. Joseph Da Crema, chairman of the Publications Board, presented the document which is now the subject of a Senate debate on ratification.

In light of the document’s rejection, Dr. Robert Langran, Senate President, indicated to Dr. Da Crema that it would now be appropriate for the Publications Board to solicit from the senators written suggestions for the document’s revision.

Section I contends that “all publications must conform to applicable state or federal laws.” The objectionable passage states that “the University and its members are responsible for any violation of such laws,” indicating a possible legal liability on the part of the University. This is followed by: “fraudulent, libelous or obscene publications expose the editors, writers and the University as the corporate sponsor to criminal or civil liability.” Possible revisions submitted by Professor Carroll at the Senate meeting would have the words “are responsible,” and “expose” replaced by “may expose.”

Section II, the section that by far raised the most objections, deals with a publications setting in a Catholic University. The objectionable passage states that “… material that is blatantly sacrilegious, obscene, or contrary to accepted moral teachings of a Catholic University may not be fostered by University-supported publications.”

The possible revision of this section, in keeping with a line of thought proposed by the Rev, John Driscoll, O.S.A., Vice President for Academic Affairs reads “However, material which is blatantly sacrilegious or obscene, or which contributes to a pattern of subversion of Catholic moral teaching, should not appear in University-supported publications.

The final revision deals with protocol for recommending sanctions as put forth in section IV. Specifically, the proposed revision states that “the affected party will be given the right to a hearing before the Board,” to be followed by the statement that “recommendations that sanction be imposed is by majority vote of the entire Board,” rather than the two statements being vice versa.

According to the proposed guidelines the Publications Board describes itself as “an advisory, not an independent judicial body formed by the Vice President for Student Affairs to recommend action which will benefit University-supported publications.” Members of the Board, that is students, faculty, administration and alumni Board members all hold an equal vote in advising on policy affecting University-supported publications.

The present guidelines are the result of work that began two years ago when tensions between the Villanovan and the administration hit a peak. At that time University senators were advised to communicate their ideas about formal guidelines in written form to the Publications Board.

But as Dr. Da Crema points out in a recent letter to University senators, the suggestion that individual senators again submit written proposals to the Publications Board may “… leave the Publications Board in much the same situation in which it found itself two years ago.”