Website blacklist action waits on administration

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

Last April, Student Government (SG) voted 17-3 in favor of proposing a blacklist of pornographic websites to apply to the university’s internet server. Currently, progress on the proposal awaits administrative response.

The blacklist was proposed under former SG president Clare Slattery, class of ’19. The suggested blacklist would ban access to specific pornographic sites from the university’s WiFi. According to an article published in May by The University News, Slattery said action on the proposal was not reasonably expected before President Dr. Thomas Hibbs took office on July 1.

Now, current SG president Joe Scholz waits for an administrative response.

“This resolution on internet content from last semester was passed by student government,” Scholz said. “As president, I’ve carried forward what I can. I’ve spoken extensively with administration. We have repeatedly been told that we will get a formal response sometime following the presidential inauguration of Dr. Hibbs.”

Scholz said he and Hibbs have not discussed the blacklist proposal, but Scholz said he has been in conversation with Provost Dr. Jonathan Sanford about future action.

“We’re waiting on, as a response, something from the administration,” said Scholz. “From whom that comes, I’m not sure.”

“What I can tell you with full certainty is this: as student leaders, as student government, we have done and continue to do absolutely all we can to work towards receiving a clear administrative response,” Scholz said. “The ball is in administration’s court.”

As far as a timeline from the administration, no details have been given to SG. 

“[Sanford] has assured us that the administration acknowledges the reality of the petition having passed and they’re working toward a response,” said Scholz. “He indicated that a response would come following the inauguration of President Hibbs. Further details were not forthcoming at that time … I’ve done all I can from my end.”

Junior John Paul Hasson was a supporter of the blacklist resolution within SG and in a commentary article published in The University News last spring.

“I still support the filter initiative, 100%,” Hasson wrote in an email. “The Notre Dame student who actually started their petition for a filter reached out to me this summer and asked for an update on the process, as she is attempting to compile a list of successful initiatives and compelling arguments used at Catholic universities.”

“While I don’t think the project needs to be implemented immediately in the strict sense,” Hasson continued, “I do think that if the administration finishes the [2020] Spring semester without moving forward at all then the project may be permanently placed on the back burner, which would be extremely disappointing.”

Hasson expressed understanding that the proposal has yet to be acted on in light of Hibbs’ newly inaugurated position.

Hibbs said he plans to revisit the proposal before giving a response. Hibbs said he has read the proposals from the spring, and planned to revisit it in the fall. 

“We discussed that in the academic affairs committee of the board, [Sanford] did … and we are planning on meeting on that soon.”

Concerning a specific time to implement the internet blacklist, no deadline has been set.

“I don’t know,” said Hibbs, concerning a timeline. “We need to meet and discuss that. But it is on the agenda. I have questions about implementation, costs, all of that.”

According to the article published last spring, the proposition is for a free program, banning purely pornographic websites via URL from UD’s Informational Technology Services.

In the current redrafting of the SG constitution, Scholz says SG intends to apply guidelines for maintaining timely administrative responses to its proposals.

“As part of our constitutional redrafting process for Student Government, whether in bylaws or in the constitution, we will work to implement a timeframe on our end within which we expect, reasonably, administration to respond to resolutions,” Scholz said. “That’s a development that, my feeling is, administration will be receptive towards.”

“I gotta be honest: we cannot make any sort of binding ask,” Scholz continued. “We don’t have a constitutional mandate or foundation for that. Just to be very clear, all we can do is ask, and that’s what we’ve been doing, persistently and consistently … we just need to get a response.”

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