Villanova University is a Catholic, Augustinian institution of higher learning that is committed to academic excellence, academic freedom, and intellectual, spiritual, moral, and social growth. Above all, the University seeks to reflect the spirit of St. Augustine by the cultivation of knowledge and the encouragement of freedom of inquiry, by respect for individual differences, and by adherence to the principle that mutual love and respect should animate every aspect of University life.
Respecting the principles and responsibilities of academic freedom, and recognizing the importance of the perceptions of both internal and external communities, the University encourages the open exchange of ideas on a variety of subjects, including those that are controversial. Thus, University recognized student groups or organizations may invite external speakers to an organizational meeting or to a University event, and may host events open to the campus community (on or off campus), that address the full range of intellectual, moral, and social issues. In keeping with the educational mission of the University, the academic character and educational value of all such events is the motive and rationale for their occurrence.
Invitations to speak, or the hosting of events, do not imply University approval or endorsement of the positions taken by invited speakers or of their previous or subsequent views. To the best of its ability, the University will ensure that all legitimately invited speakers will be able to express their views and that open discussion will take place. This policy presumes that those inviting speakers or hosting events will exercise sound judgment in selecting speakers and in establishing the particulars of a given event.
Although this policy assumes that both speakers and audience will exhibit appropriate and respectful demeanor toward each other, it is recognized (a) that speakers or events may often challenge existing attitudes and beliefs and/or trigger disagreements, and (b) that no policy, no procedures, and no sponsor of a speech or event, can guarantee against the possibility that a speech may offend listeners, that a speaker may unexpectedly deviate from anticipated content and style, or that members of an audience might engage in inappropriate behavior.
The following standards and procedures govern external speakers and events being proposed by recognized student groups or organizations:
The following conditions must be met for an external speaker or event to be considered for approval:
- The speech or event must constitute a legitimate educational experience or otherwise contribute to the university’s mission.
- The speech or event must not pose a substantial risk to the physical safety of speakers or members of the audience, other participants, or bystanders.
- The speech or event must not involve a substantial risk of disrupting classes, obstructing access to campus facilities, otherwise interfering with other ongoing University events or activities, or creating a seriously intimidating, threatening, scandalizing, and/or uncivil environment at the speech or event that would undermine its educational purposes.
- The speech or event must not violate the law or the nonprofit status of the University. (Note that federal and state laws may prohibit, condition, or limit speeches by political candidates; accordingly, consultation with the General Counsel's office for guidance should occur in these situations).
- It is understood that some speakers will hold, offer, and defend positions that differ from Catholic Church teaching. The expectation is that they will do so in an academically responsible fashion, be open to questions and challenges from members of the audience, and respectfully acknowledge, and not disparage, Church teaching. If, in the judgment of University officials, a speech or event presents a serious risk of violating these principles, the group seeking permission for such an event must accept provisions to ensure adherence to standards of freely reasoned academic discussion and debate. Such provisions might include, for example, allowing for an appropriate response at the speech or event or contextualizing the event or speech by means of complementary counter-programming.
- The speech or event must not place undue burden on the University’s finances, facilities or other resources.
- A recognized student group or organization wishing to invite an external speaker to an organizational meeting or to a University event, or to an event open to the campus community (on or off campus) must first present a written proposal to its advisor[i]. Prior to submitting the proposal, student groups or organizations must consult with their advisor to ensure that the speech or event adheres to the Values and Conditions sections of this policy.
- The proposal should include the identity of the speaker, the proposed time and place of the speaker’s presentation, the subject matter and purpose of the speaker’s presentation and what, if any stipend will be required. The proposal should also include information outlining how the speech or event is consistent with the Values and Conditions sections of this policy.
- The leaders of the student group or organization together with their advisor will present the written proposal for review to the Director, Department Head or Division Head of the area recognizing the student group or organization. Promotion of the event in written, print, electronic or other form shall not take place until the speech or event and all contracts receive final approval.
- In reviewing the request, the Director, Department Head or Division Head must ensure that the speech or event is consistent with the Values and Conditions sections outlined in this policy. In reaching this determination, the Director, Department Head or Division Head may consult with appropriate members of the University community and may meet with the advisor and/or leaders of the student group or organization.
- The Director, Department Head or Division Head may: 1) approve the request; 2) deny the request if inconsistent with any of the provisions outlined in the Values and Conditions sections of this policy; or 3) may impose restrictions or conditions to ensure consistency with the provisions of the Values and Conditions sections of this policy. If the request is denied, the Director, Department Head or Division Head will share the reasons for denial with the advisor and the leaders of the student group or organization.
- If the proposal is denied, the student group or organization may request that the proposal be reviewed by the Provost, Vice-President or Dean overseeing the area recognizing the student organization or group. The Provost, Vice- President or Dean shall meet with the leaders of the student group or organization and their advisor before rendering a decision.
- The Provost, Vice-President or Dean, after appropriate consultation with other University officials, shall make the final determination. In exercising this authority, the Provost, Vice-President or Dean shall give due consideration to the information contained in the written proposal, the thoughts expressed during the meeting with the student leaders and the provisions of the Values and Conditions sections of this policy. If the request is denied, the Provost, Vice-President or Dean will share the reasons for denial with the advisor and the leaders of the student group or organization.
- If there is a contract or fees for any speaker, the advisor or the Director, Department Head or Division Head will submit the contract to the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel for approval. If approved, the contract must be signed by an authorized University official. The sponsoring student group or organization is responsible for payment of all costs associated with a speaker or event, including any costs related to safety and security.
- The University reserves the right to withdraw any speaker invitation, or to cancel any event, at any time for any reason, but it will not do so for reasons judged to be less than fundamental to the University’s values and well-being. If the student group or organization has not followed the procedure outlined in this policy, no formal reason needs to be given for the withdrawal or cancellation. If the student group or organization has followed the procedures outlined in this policy, the Provost, Vice-President or Dean will meet with the student leaders of the group or organization before withdrawing the invitation. However, the final decision rests with the Provost, Vice-President or Dean.
[i] Invitations to bishops or other ecclesiastical authorities are excluded from this policy. Such invitations must only be issued by the Office of the President or the Office for Mission and Ministry.