A full-page ad bearing the title “Human Rights for All” appears on page B5 of today’s issue of The Hoya. The ad is passionately and unmistakably “pro-life.” And if you are looking for the rebuttal – do not look in the pages of The Hoya. “Pro-choice” advertisements are not welcome in these pages.

Are you angry? Are you pro-choice and think that you deserve to have your voice heard?

Are you angry? Did you think discourse, discussion and debate are central to the being of this university?

Are you angry? Do you think a newspaper that does not allow both sides is not much of a newspaper?

You should be angry. But not at The Hoya -it is not our decision.

Free Speech – Sometimes

The Hoya operates under the auspices of the Georgetown University Media Board. While the Media Board charter says that student editors should have editorial control over their publications, it also instructs the Media Board to impose advertising policies on student publications.

The small print on the editorial page of The Hoya says that “Georgetown University subscribes to the principle of responsible freedom of expression for student editors.”

Editors review all advertisements that appear on page B5 or any other page just as they review all the viewpoints that appear on page A3. Just like viewpoints and editorials, if these advertisements contain falsehoods, obscenity or libel, the student editors of The Hoya bear full responsibility. These advertisements do not represent the opinion of the newspaper or the university. Nevertheless, free speech and freedom of expression do not apply to some parts of The Hoya.

Abortion Is Controversial, Speech Is Not

Abortion is controversial. Some students support it, others oppose. The Catholic Church unambiguously opposes the practice. The issue at hand, however, is not abortion. The Hoya is neither endorsing nor condemning abortion. But in the pages of a newspaper and on the grounds of a university voices should never be stifled.

In a Feb. 3, 2003, speech about freedom of expression, University President John J. DeGioia said that “We cannot be a university dedicated to intellectual excellence and at the same time place limits on what might be said and thought and discussed.” We are clearly a university that limits what may be said and discussed. So long as these policies persist, DeGioia is either a hypocrite or he does not believe Georgetown is dedicated to intellectual excellence. Either stance is unacceptable.

A newspaper that is dedicated to excellence should have a similar approach. The Hoya strives to present unbiased news coverage and an open forum for opinions. The newspaper’s policy is that viewpoints are always welcome from all members of the Georgetown community on any topic. These pieces are not the opinion of the newspaper.

The Hoya was founded in 1920 on the condition that it be self-sufficient. The newspaper does not, and never has, received financial support from the university. University funding is clearly not going to support practices in which the church does not believe. In the case of The Hoya, funding is not even supporting discussion about practices in which the university does not believe.

Content Is Content

The university draws a meaningless distinction between advertising content and editorial content. Turn to page B5. Look at the advertisement again. Does it not express a political point of view? The sheer size of the advertisement makes it just as effective as if it were on the Viewpoint page. Yet this venue, paid political speech advertising, is not open to the opposition.

At the end of the day, “speech” ads and editorials are both words on newsprint ? words that students would bear sole responsibility for if Georgetown truly believed in freedom of expression. This is not to say that ads for abortion-related services should be allowed, but only that speech ads – those promoting a specific opinion – should be permitted regardless of the opinion they promote.

DeGioia stated that the university’s policy “does not prohibit speech based on the person presenting ideas or the content of those ideas nor does it mandate any mechanism by which the institution decides who gets to speak and who doesn’t.”

The advertising policies that the media board forces upon student media, however, are exactly what DeGioia denies. The policies prohibit speech based on the person presenting ideas and the content of those ideas. It is a mandated mechanism by which the institution decides who gets to speak and who doesn’t. The students of GU Right to Life can take out a full-page advertisement. The students of H*yas for Choice cannot necessarily.

The “Human Rights for All” ad was accepted. Advertisements for last year’s March for Women’s Lives were rejected.

The solution is not for The Hoya to prohibit both sides of the debate. In the words of the Rev. James Walsh, S.J., who wrote the university’s speech and expression policy, “To forbid or limit discourse contradicts everything the university stands for.” More speech is always better.

Every effort is made to publish every opinion piece that the newspaper receives. The opinion pages are a reflection of the students that choose to contribute to the newspaper, not the newspaper itself. Opinions from staunch conservatives and die-hard liberals, from abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents and from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict regularly appear in The Hoya. Sometimes the writings are alarmingly radical, but as long as they are not libelous, false or obscene, they are welcome. It should not be the job of a newspaper to censor. Georgetown’s policies should never force student editors to censor.

These policies have not only worsened The Hoya – they have worsened Georgetown as a university.

The time has come for the Media Board to revisit and abolish all policies which curtail speech and expression. Student media is the last place where ideas should be quashed – not the first. Student publications should not have a mandated political bias. Some student publications choose to have a bias, but if a publication seeks to be unbiased that should be an option.

Some issues are controversial, uncomfortable even. Sometimes free speech hurts. But in the words of DeGioia, “If you can’t debate controversial ideas here, where can it be done?”

If you can’t debate controversial ideas in the pages of The Hoya, where indeed?

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