Last year, Flyer News brought the struggle between the Society of Freethinkers and the University of Dayton to the forefront of our community conversation. Doing so was in keeping with our mission of serving the campus community in a manner befitting of a Catholic, Marianist university.
The question of SOFT recognition encouraged vigorous debate all throughout campus. In many ways, the issue raises questions regarding the very nature and purpose of the university – if not the very nature and purpose of our existence as human beings.
Flyer News was proud to facilitate that conversation. Community members from all sides of the debate voiced their thoughts and positions to Flyer News. Soon, Religion News Service wrote a story about the debate, and the Washington Post and USA TODAY syndicated the story online.
Flyer News was cautious, however, to maintain a clear delineation between our objective news reporting and our opinion section. To this day, Flyer News has never endorsed or opposed recognition of SOFT. Nor have we succumbed to any real or perceived pressure from UD administration. We are neither the mouthpiece of the SOFT, nor the mouthpiece of the UD administration.
As with many organizations before it, SOFT discovered a de facto reality of the private university: the First Amendment effectively ends at the schoolhouse gate. We see this throughout the university. Student political organizations are prohibited from distributing candidate literature, bed sheets on houses are taken down and the dismal list goes on.
Nevertheless, questions regarding the First Amendment rights of university students are central to discerning the true nature of a university that claims “Pro Deo et Patria” – for God and country – as its motto. This is especially true given the university’s liberty to operate under the same Constitutional guarantee it chooses to restrict.
Today, as before, we neither endorse nor oppose recognition of SOFT. As an editorial staff, we’re simply unable to reconcile our diverse opinions regarding the subject. We do, however, acknowledge what we believe to be evident: that SOFT’s presence in our university community aroused conversations regarding faith and reason in a way that reminded us why we came here, “to ask the big questions and then work to discover the answers.”
The university’s marketing promised it to us as perspective students. SOFT’s presence in the community delivered it.