University Tries to Defuse Dispute over Student Group

By Snyder, Martin D. | Academe, September/October 2004 | Go to article overview

University Tries to Defuse Dispute over Student Group


Snyder, Martin D., Academe


Following the rejection by the Catholic University of America of a student application to form a campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Very Reverend David M. O'Conncll, C.M., president of the university, and Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, held what they both described as an "open, frank, candid, and respectful" meeting in June. The controversy between CUA and the NAACP made headline news earlier in the month.

The Washington Post reported that William Jawando, a graduating senior who originally petitioned for the chapter, had spent months trying to get the university to approve an NAACP chapter. He organized black and white students who supported the idea, lined up sociology professor Dean Hoge as faculty adviser, and got approval from the national NAACP. In April, however, he was told by university officials that permitting the chapter would be inconsistent with the university's mission and that of the Catholic Church. The NAACP has chapters at about 150 colleges and universities, including other Catholic institutions, such as Georgetown, Fordham, and St. John's universities.

CUA's director of public affairs, Victor Nakas, defended the university's decision on the grounds that there arc already two organizations on campus representing African American students. An NAACP chapter, he told the PPWim^on Po.sV, "would cause redundancy and overlap." He added, however, that the NAACP's pro-choice stance "was a factor in the considerations. It's a factor we don't neglect because we steadfastly uphold the teachings of the Catholic church and would apply that rule to any student group." Last year, the university's bookstore canceled a book signing by Washington, D.C., congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton because of her prochoice advocacy.

Jawando, who plans to enter the university's law school this fall, found the university's argument about redundancy "disrespectful" and stated that the purpose for forming the chapter was "to do voter registration and raise awareness about the November elections, not start a chapter of Planned Parenthood. …

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University Tries to Defuse Dispute over Student Group
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