SGA Vice President, Weston Kirby, Delivers Tie Breaking Vote and Passes Top 200 Pornography Website Ban to University Servers

Courtesy of Thomas Holmes

By Catherine O’Grady

The Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, held in Caldwell Auditorium on Monday, was the most well-attended meeting of the semester by members of the public, as students were intrigued and passionate about Resolution 018, “A Resolution for a Pornography Free Campus Network.” Approximately 60 concerned students were in attendance. The agenda for the evening originally included four pieces of legislation including Resolution 017 that discussed student employee surveys. Only two pieces of legislation were discussed during the meeting.

The meeting began with the usual prayer and Pledge of Allegiance before the public comment, an opportunity for members of the public to officially voice their concerns for to their representative senate. Matt Bechtel, a sophomore engineering student, was the first to speak and was the only member of the public who voiced his opposition of Resolution 018.

“I don’t think it’s in the character of this university to start censoring information,” said Bechtel. “For example we don’t generally impose our religion on the students that go here. We’re a relatively tolerant university”

After Bechtel’s remarks, 11 students stood up in front of the senate to voice their support for resolution. Some individuals shared their own struggles with pornography addictions.

“Banning the top 200 porn websites is a good move,” said senior business student Joseph Enzler. “It can invoke the question ‘why the heck is this even banned?’ If you block the websites it sparks a conversation among the students.”

After the public comment concluded, the agenda was approved by the senate for the evening.

The first piece of legislation on the agenda was Resolution 017, “A Resolution to Request the Implementation of Student Employee Engagement Surveys,” sponsored by Senator Kaitlin Shanahan. This resolution called for surveys to be distributed to all student employees to gauge job satisfaction and to, “develop a concrete plan with direct reports in order to remedy an deficiencies put forth,” as stated in the resolution.

Resolution 017 passed unanimously by the present senators.

Resolution 018 was next on the agenda, sponsored by Senator Gerard McNair-Lewis and co-sponsored by Senators Cornelius Deep, Ally Kilgore, and Alec McGuire. The resolution asked that the university prohibit access to the top 200 pornography websites through the school’s Wi-Fi.

After the resolution was read by Vice President Weston Kirby, the sponsors of the bill informed the audience of the research behind the resolution and benefits for the Catholic University community. The resolution was inspired by an anti-pornography petition that had gathered 351 signatures from undergraduate students.

“You don’t need to be a Catholic or even believe any Christian teaching in order to understand the many ways in which pornography is wrong,” said Kilgore, Representative for the Class of 2021. The sponsors of the bill informed the audience of the research behind the resolution and benefits for the Catholic University community.

The floor was then opened for debate between the senators. Senators, such as Gerald Sharpe and Michael Klein were stark supporters of this resolution while others, such as Senators Aaron Mackisey and and Cecilia Bracey opposed it’s passing. Most of the oppositions weren’t pro-porn, but anti-censorship.  

“We are an educational institution. We shouldn’t filter information on the internet.  It infringes on our right to inform,” said a concerned constituent of Senator Bracey.

Senator Melissa Zentz, representative from the School of Philosophy, proposed the addition of a pastoral ministry aspect to the resolution for those who struggle with pornogrpahy addiction. The proposal was approved and added to the resolution.

The last senator to speak on the issue before the senate took its official vote on the bill was Spinelli. Spinelli voiced his concerns for the bills based in his opposition of the University’s intruding into the personal lives of its students. He referred back to Resolution 011 that was passed a few weeks ago calling for a tobacco-free campus, a resolution Spinelli was a vocal opponent of. Spinelli has made it well known that he is against any resolution that allows the university to interfere with the personal lives of the students and demanded that the 14 senators who voted to pass Resolution 011 do the same based on principle.

“I don’t want the university dictating to me what I can and cannot access on the free and open internet,” said Spinelli.

After Spinelli’s remarks, the senate voted on the resolution. In the first voting attempt, Senator Sharpe voted nay after he had been so vocal about his support of the resolution. When he realized his mistake, the senate voted again on the bill resulting in a tie: 12 yeas to 12 nays.

In the event of a tie, it is the role of the Vice President to break it. Vice President Kirby voted yea and the bill passed with a resounding applause from the public.

“I voted yea in the interest of the students. I believe that the resolution is something that CUA and all Catholic Schools alike can rightfully regulate,” said Kirby.

President Jimmy Harrington has decided to sign the resolution and approves of its content.

“I am signing the Resolution not from purely religious or Catholic grounds, but because The Catholic University America can and should exercise its rights to prohibit the use of pornography on the campus network,” said Harrington in his letter to the senators justifying his actions.

After the excitement of Resolution 018, a motion was passed to move the remaining two resolutions, Resolution 019 “A Resolution to Increase Counseling Services for the Student Body,” and Resolution 020 “A Resolution to Encourage the University to Launch a Water Sustainability Project,” to the next senate meeting. The motion was passed and the two resolutions will be covered in the next SGA meeting on Monday, April 15.

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