Dr. David Calhoun on Vagina Monologues in a Jesuit Catholic University

from the Gonzaga Bulletin (courtesy of Insight Scoop):

ark Alfino’s response to Eric Cunningham’s article concerning “The Vagina Monologues” controversy raises a smokescreen that sidesteps the salient issues.  In the first place, Alfino is wrong that the VM controversy is a matter of academic freedom, and secondly, his account implies a conception of mission in which anything is consistent with Gonzaga’s Jesuit Catholic identity.

Alfino claims that performance of “The Vagina Monologues” is a matter of academic freedom.  However, academic freedom is not a blanket principle that mandates or legitimates that anything and everything can or must be done in an academic context.  It is, rather, the policy that specifies that academic life presumes the free inquiry into truth.  Perhaps the most authoritative statement on academic freedom in the United States, the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors, outlines the issue by noting, “Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good. … The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition” (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/1940statement.htm). The free search for truth does not require that every available book be read, that every poem be recited, that every available speaker be invited to campus.  In the present context, genuine academic freedom does not require that every play ever written be performed publicly on a university campus.  The objective is not the airing of every possible form of every possible idea.  Rather, practical judgments of pedagogy and practice are employed all the time by teachers and administrators regarding the best means to critically explore ideas and the arguments that support them.

. . .

Similarly, “The Vagina Monologues,” as a particular expression of ideas, is not necessary to explore questions of violence against women, or indeed of human sexuality and female self-image.  Not only is it not necessary, good arguments can and have been made that it is a poor vehicle for exploring these ideas.  It does not speak univocally against violence against women, insofar as it depicts sympathetically female-on-female sexual abuse of a minor.  Despite Eve Ensler’s brilliant marketing campaign, the play is not even so much about violence against women as it is a celebration of polymorphous sexuality.  Beyond its poor literary quality, the play features unnecessary vulgarities which amount to vicarious live sex demonstrations.

There are further reasons for rejecting “The Vagina Monologues” as an occasion for academic inquiry at a Jesuit, Catholic institution.  The play ignores the multifaceted nature of female experience by eliminating entire ranges of human sexuality from its purview.  It offends against human dignity by reducing human personality to sexuality, and female dignity to sexual activity.  It completely ignores the rich literature and vocabulary of Catholic and Christian sexual teaching.

A Jesuit, Catholic institution can explore the full range of questions — of ideas — of human nature, human biology, human sexuality, and human social relations.  Not all expressions of these ideas are necessary, pedagogically effective or ethically justifiable. “The Vagina Monologues “presents ideas in literarily clumsy, pedagogically inferior, and ethically offensive ways.  If Gonzaga truly cared about academic freedom, we would have an open and honest conversation about these matters.  We will not, however, as the planners of the week of events surrounding the Gonzaga performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” have studiously avoided including dissenting voices.  All we will get is a set of monologues on the Monologues.  That is hardly an ideal embodiment of either academic freedom or the traditions of a Jesuit, Catholic, humanist institution of higher learning.

Monk’s Hobbit:

Replace Gonzaga University by Ateneo de Manila University and you get the picture.


Vagina Monologues is back in Ateneo de Manila University in 2010 after it was banned by Dr. Anna Miren Intal in 2002

After my 7:30-8:30 p.m. Ps 121 class last Wednesday, my female student told me that the Vagina Monologues will be shown at the Cervini Field at 6 or 6:30 p.m.  that day, just after our Physics long test.  The play is under the direction of Missy Maramara of the Ateneo English Department (see Petrablog).  This is for the culmination of the Ateneo Women’s Week.  She is excited to watch the play.

I told her that Vagina Monologues should be banned in the Ateneo, because Ateneo is a Catholic University.  Why should the play be shown in Ateneo when it glorifies the sexual liberation of a woman by having sex with a lesbian.  Another student of mine told me that that his Theology teacher also believes in the same way as I do.  I should have asked the teacher’s name so that I can send him a note of thanks for teaching rightly.

In the year 2002, the film was banned by Dr. Anna Miren Intal, the Dean of the Loyola Schools.  Here is an account someone in favor of Vagina Monologues in Ateneo which I got from Pinoy Exchange:

Dr. Anna Miren Intal, Ph.D. is the Dean for the entire Loyola Schools. Obviously, Dean Intal is a female. She took her Ph.D. in Princeton, I believe so she supposedly has . She’s the end-all and be-all of the entire college, and she made her powers felt as she
>effectively derailed the project.

In a meeting with Rabbi and a co-Theatre Arts Major (Missy), Dr. Intal expressed her apprehension and objection about the project because (I’m paraphrasing here) “It goes against the thrust and vision of our Jesuit institution.” Furthermore, “It might destroy the moral fabric of the Ateneo…” (Jeez, you should hear me reinact this LIVE for the “lamb-ish” tone she uses!) When asked if she finds the word “Vagina” objectionable, she just laughs and says “That too…” Missy asked her what in the script she finds objectionable, Dr. Intal says, “To tell you the truth, I haven’t really read the script, but I’ve seen a lot of Broadway plays that are more tasteful…” Rabbi and Missy press her to reconsider, so she gives in a little. She says she’d “forward it to the THEOLOGY Department for moral evaluation.”


My friends went to their professors (to name a few, Ma’am Benny Santos, Sol Reyes, Fr. Nic Cruz, Dr. Ricky Abad) to ask for their recommendations for the staging of Vagina. They got it. Rabbi even went further by getting recommendations from FORDHAM Universtiy (another JESUIT institution in New York City), DePaul University, and some other universities abroad. Locally, he was able to get a a recommendation from a nun who happens to have a Ph.D. in Theology and who happens to be the President of St. Scholastica’s College (one of the more conservative colleges in the country). He wrote a letter to Dr. Intal about how universities like the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, the University of Sto. Tomas, and St. Scholastica’s have agreed to stage Vagina in their campuses. Unfortunately, Dr. Intal did not budge.

She said she had to consider the “tens and thousands of students, parents, alumni who also have a stake in the Ateneo,” and that she doesn’t want “to be responsible for the thousands of people who will flock to the Ateneo in PROTEST” of the staging of Vagina. “I have to think like an administrator.” She even said that she doesn’t want the name “Ateneo” to be linked in the project in any way. She said that the administration has the trademark “Ateneo” and that she wouldn’t allow it to be used. She even said she didn’t want the students involved to say that they were Ateneans. (It was then she hinted of a ‘lawsuit’ if they did.)

How lame is that???!!

I don’t know how this Vagina Monologues got permission to be shown again in Ateneo. Missy Maramara who was only a Theatre Arts major in 2002 is now an Ateneo Faculty.   The quote is revealing: it shows how far the Jesuit universities have been stricken by this Vagina Monologues malady. And even the top Catholic Schools in the Philippines as well.  The Vagina Monolgues has seduced the most brilliant minds . Woe to those who call light as darkness and darkness light! As Christ said, if the light in you is darkness, how great must that darkness be!

I admire Dr. Miren Intal. I was able to join her for lunch once in the cafeteria years ago, long after she ceased to be the Dean of the Loyola Schools. She is a soft-spoken lady, yet principled and strong. May there be more faculty and administrators like her who defends Ateneo’s authentic Jesuit and Catholic tradition.