Despite pressure from parts of the student body, the Spokane WA-based Gonzaga University’s Interim President Thayne McCulloh is upholding the Jesuit Catholic institution’s 2002 ban on performances of the play The Vagina Monologues.
Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), wrote to Dr. McCulloh, “As many Catholic colleges and universities work to renew and strengthen their Catholic identity, your decision not to reverse Gonzaga’s policy reassures Catholic families that Gonzaga continues on that path. Thank you!”
The Vagina Monologues describes lesbian activity, group masturbation. Performed to support the end to violence against women, often as a fundraiser for women’s shelters, it has been featured at numerous at Catholic colleges and universities, often despite opposition by local bishops. However, as reported by the sponsoring V-Day organization, performances are down to 13 in 2010 from 32 in 2003.
In 2002, a proposal to host the Vagina Monologues on the Gonzaga Univesity campus resulted in a decision by then-President Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., to ban the performance. After a vote, the Gonzaga Board of Trustees supported Spitzer’s decision. Fr. Spitzer retired as president in 2009.
This year, students led by a faculty sponsor from the Women’s and Gender Studies department proposed to bring the Vagina Monologues to campus. A February 19 article from the Gonzaga Bulletin reported that the Gonzaga administration was discussing the appropriateness of a performance on campus.
The Gonzaga Bulletin reported again on March 19 that a letter from Interim President Thayne McCulloh was delivered to the students and faculty supporting the Monologues, informing them of his decision to let the 2002 ban of the play stand as a precedent.
In an e-mail to the University community on this issue, Dr. McCulloh wrote that he “could not ignore the historical context that informs review of the current proposal.”
Dr. McCulloh noted that the Board of Trustees’ 2002 vote was important because they “rarely vote on these types of matters, but when they do it is often considered a significant statement, and most frequently a statement of policy . . . It is now obvious to me that some Trustees see their earlier vote as having affirmed not only the president’s decision, but the institution’s position, in relating to this specific production (i.e. The Vagina Monologues).”
In response to Dr. McCulloh’s decision, the supporters of the Vagina Monologues held campus protests of the play. Some students duct taped their mouths shut while holding signs such as “Vaginas need to talk too,” while other students cheered “Go Vaginas, V-A-G-I-N-A-S,” the Gonzaga Bulletin reported.
Last week, The Cardinal Newman Society reported that there were 14 Catholic colleges and universities hosting the Monologues in 2010, including Barry University. Since then CNS received confirmation from Barry’s Director of Housing and Residence Life that, in fact, the University did not host the play.