DePaul cites Vincentian values in rejection of DCR’s poster


The censorship debate on DePaul’s campus continues as a poster designed by the DePaul College Republicans (DCRs) was denied by the administration. Nearly six months after a conversation on free speech started on campus, the DCR submitted a poster advertising “Unborn Lives Matter.” The poster, which was intended to be hung from a banner off of the second floor of the Student Center, was black with white font. It looked nearly identical to the “Black Lives Matter” design, the only real difference being “unborn” replacing “black.”

The administration denied the request for publication, much to the surprise of the DePaul College Republicans, but not quite as surprising to other groups on campus. DePaul’s President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. quickly put out a statement stating the poster goes against Catholic and Vincentian values. Members of DePaul College Republicans responded stating the poster did not mean “to belittle the Black Lives Matter” movement and that the administration “bent to the knee of radical leftists.”

DePaul University has no problem with its pro-life students advocating for their beliefs. DePaul is the largest Catholic institution in the country. Our university sets a precedent for other Catholic universities in the way we interpret our faith. We have a diverse student body for a Catholic institution: nearly all faith traditions are represented. Every day, our university has to learn to balance the morals of our tradition, while staying inclusive and respecting the beliefs of all students. Denying of an “Unborn Lives Matter” poster might seem controversially anti-Catholic to some, but is truly a progressive faith-based move from a religious university. DePaul is taking a stance against exploitation of our black brothers and sisters in the name of our Catholic faith.

Catholic values were instilled in me from a young age all the way through high school.  I grew up part of a large, Irish Catholic family in an Irish Catholic city. We went to mass every Sunday and lit candles at Advent. Our faith was found in the belief we must strive for the inherent dignity of those without a voice. My familial beliefs line up quite closely with DePaul’s Vincentian mission. “What must be done” causes us to see a need to work for change, and a need to protect and represent all forms of oppressed life, especially the most vulnerable. To this day black bodies are some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Black bodies are the most likely to be killed, the least likely to receive proper health care and are disproportionately criminalized. Through both institutional and systemic racism, black communities have historically been separated and then stripped of resources to make their communities nearly unable to sustain themselves. Our society has deprived all typical routes of opportunity and upward mobility from black communities, and then questioned why they are not “succeeding.” On top of all of this, we have gerrymandered their community districts and wards, withdrawn their voting rights through disenfranchisement, consequently taking away their political voice.

Then we wonder why they organize. We wonder why some protests are not peaceful. We get mad that our highways are blocked, the very highways that were subsidized by the federal government in an effort to keep Whites and Blacks a separated people. We get mad a group of people want to be considered human.

Early July, Donald Trump tweeted an image including a Star of David shape, or as argued by his campaign, a sheriff’s badge. The Republican presidential candidate claimed the image was by no means purposefully offensive or anti-Semitic. Despite his affinity for controversy, his campaign apologized and removed the symbol from his social media. Donald Trump realized that no matter his intentions, the use of offensive symbolism was inappropriate and detrimental to his argument for free speech.

DCRs are arguing DePaul is “attempting to marginalize (them) for what (they) believe.” DePaul University has no issue with pro-life students advocating their beliefs. I mean, this is a university that bans the distribution of contraceptives because of their pro-life values. If anti-abortion was all the DCRs were trying to promote in this advertisement, why were they so upset DePaul asked them to change their format and wording? Why would they want to use the slogan of the group they have previously ridiculed and called radicals in the first place?

The DePaul College Republicans wanted to make a pointed political statement by showing support of “unborn lives,” while in the past publicly criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. To argue they were unaware of the connotations of this design is an insult to their intelligence. The group knew what they were doing. This poster was intended to bring in new members to their organization who share similar values. But what is the worth of pro-life values, if they are belittling and critical of the fight for human rights and Black lives?

It has been a rocky road the past six months at DePaul.  Events have taken place that have led me to not be proud of my university, and I have been disappointed in our administration based on their decisions and priorities. Yet at this time, I applaud DePaul. I applaud them for being a prototypical Catholic university in a time of clout and unrest in our country. I applaud them for realizing that any value pitted against another does a disservice to our community. Most importantly, I applaud them for making me, a millennial, proud to be attending a Catholic university using its values and mission to fight for what really “must be done.”

Gracie Fleming is on the Executive Board of Roosevelt Institute at DePaul, a student-led policy organization.