Friday, August 4, 2006
DePaul Teen Leads Catholic Revival at Biggest Catholic University in Fight Against Queer Studies: 101 While Mainstream Chicago Media, Fearing to Offend, Clamps on a News Blackout
School President as Available to Public as the late Howard Hughes.
[The latest article in The Wanderer, the oldest national Catholic weekly.]
CHICAGOTall (6 feet 2 inches), slender (150 lbs.) Nicholas G. Hahn III, who just turned 19 last month, sipped a Coke, smiled ruefully and told The Wanderer that when he came to DePaul University last September, he expected something far different than he got. He thought hed get a true Catholic education; instead he ended up giving an example of the Church militant to the school.
Since he can remember, his Mom and Dad told him that he would go to DePaul as the fourth generation to matriculate there. His father, uncles, grandfather and grandmother had gone there and his great-grandfather graduated from the DePaul law school.. His grandfather had played basketball for the schools famous Blue Demons, under the legendary coach Ray Meyer, the man who coached George Mikan and who had won national attention for his stern yet benevolent training.
That training, he was told, turned boys into more than high-scorers but men with respect for women, family and God. Nicholas thought about DePaul as his family moved to his Dads business opportunities in Ramsey, New Jersey, Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Simi Valley, California and Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
In the high schools he attended, Nicholas played basketball but was almost un-redeemably straight: always a stickler for decorum. He became attracted to conservative politics early. In his correspondence he signs himself, in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Not just your usual teen-ager. And his Catholicity is solid and enduring when he received his training from his parents and grandparents. But DePaul would be the frosting on the cake. After all, it is the largest Catholic university in the nation.
But when the engaging kid with currently-popular spiky hair moved to Chicago on the first adventure of his life away from home, he got a series of lessons he hadnt expected to take. He signed up for a dorm and found it was a coed dormall weresomething the old DePaul wouldnt have tolerated.
In dorm life, he saw the decadence: the lack of supervision from the university, the heavy drinking, the pot smoking, the sexual fraternization. What had been billed as a chapel for daily Mass was nothing more than a large room with no ever-present Blessed Sacrament one could visit during the day but a room that was used for general services, including Buddhism.
He noticed there were no crucifixes on the classroom walls. They told him the crucifixes had been taken down a long time ago. Why? Because the crucifixes would make students of different faiths uncomfortable: also would make students of no religion at all uncomfortable. Besides, he said, when a university receives federal funding the crucifixes have to go because of the separation of church and state. But Nicholas knows the second reason was baloney. Plenty of Catholic schools receive federal money and retain crucifixes.
Then he heard a number of his professors skirting the subject of Catholicism but stressing only the urban nature of the university. For Catholicism on Sunday, he found a church in the West Town neighborhood St. John Cantius, the mother church of authentic Catholicism. He goes to 11 a.m. every Sunday, is thrilled with the Novos Ordo Latin Mass, deeply impressed with the reverence people show for the Mass there.
But on campus it was one insult to Catholicism after anothersuch as The Coming Out Ball sponsored by the University in October, where young people were encouraged to follow their inclinations to homosexuality and lesbianism with a garish ball. The grisly celebration was reminiscent of the famous Bar Scene of gargoyles and lascivious animals in Star Wars with a hint of Hell interspersed.
With a special touch of effrontery for social convention, the Coming Out Ball was held on the same day parents were invited to inspect the University. Gay students were strolling around either in drag or scandalously scanty clothes: another way of showing the institutions displeasure with traditional moral values.
Still, since he was enrolled in school now, Nicholas determined to get by. But it all changed on 9/11. Not the Big 9/11. The 9/11 of last year2005. That day was at the Student Involvement Fair where posters were displayed advertising the forthcoming appearance of Dr. Ward Churchill on October 30. He was already famous as the University of Colorado professor who had said the 3,000 plus innocent Americans who died on the Big 9/11 deserved what they got because they were part of a corrupt, empire-building fascism called the United States of America. The same Ward Churchill who proudly announced he was part American Indian and identified with victims of the genocidal war that whites waged on native Americans (only to have it proved that he wasnt Indian at all but had made it all up).
That did it. In a very real sense, Nicholas says, the Churchill invite triggered in him and his pals a counter-attack. From September 11 to October 30 he and the DePaul College Republicans tried to get the university to rescind the invitation to Churchill. They lost. The Churchill invitation stuck. So Nicholas and the small Republican group decided to take advantage of free speech and make posters, advertising Churchills most extravagant, seditious claims and put them on the wall.
But they were silenced. The Catholic university in the nation that
stresses diversity denied them the right to do it. They fought back. The
university issued a statement reinforcing the gag order on them. It said,
what youre doing is propaganda and we dont approve of
propaganda. They cited a university rule that barred propaganda. But
Nicholas the aspiring lawyer checked and found the rule was written just
to apply to them: ex post facto.
Nicholas says that decision sent him to his knees in prayer. Should he leave DePaul? He says, The answer seemed to be that God
wanted me to stay at DePaul and affect change.
Speaking about it now, hes happy and enthused and very glad he stuck
with it. The persecutionand thats what it wasled him to find like-minded friends, people at DePaul whom he never figured would agree with them.
Working doggedly after classes, these kids researched the Internet to find a group somewhere that would help them. They came upon an
organization called The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
They contacted it and voila! the Foundations legal team took the case. It put on so much pressure that the university changed its ban on preventing posters citing Churchills comments and retracted its propaganda excuse. That was the first victory the small, hardy group of conservatives won. Immediately they formed what they called the DePaul Conservative Alliance with Nicholas as treasurer. Pitted against the entire university establishment, they planned what was to be a stunningly effective demonstrationagainst affirmative actionwhich they put on in January, 2006.
As part of a national conservative teaching experience, it was simple but
devastatingly illustrative, billed simply as a Bake Sale. They
applied for a table to manage the sale within the DePaul Student Center.
Girl-members of the Conservative Alliance baked cookies, brownies and
other goodies while the young men followed their culinary orders, did grunt
work like pulling trays of freshly baked cookies and sweets from the
At the Student Center they then applied traditional affirmative action
labels to the cost of the bakery goods to emphasize the innate inequality of
the affirmative action concept to the prices. White students had to pay $1
each for a cookie but black students were charged only 50 cents for a cookie
and women only 25 cents. When the white kids complained, they were told
that this was the nature of affirmative action and they were paying a tax for
untold centuries of discrimination against blacks. There was much
grumbling and outcries. Also, males were charged more than females.
Why? Under affirmative action women got cut rates for years of
male oppression. The lesson was learned to devastating effect and the
Bake Sales message resounded around the campus.
It should have been a great newspaper and TV story. But in Chicago
as elsewhere, its a kept liberal media. But there was a campus-wide
reaction. And liberal hell to pay from the head office.
The Bake Sale triggered a university-wide investigation by the Office of
Student Affairs for possibly harassment and racial discrimination.
At the end of the probe, the Conservative Alliance was found not guilty of
harassment and discrimination but guilty of not fully disclosing the nature
of the Bake Sale on the application which Nicholas cheerfully agrees they
didnt do. But their conviction had an effect. . Promptly the entire student
body of DePaul15,000 students as well as faculty and administrative
staffreceived a mass e-mail statement from the president of DePaul,
Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, a man as reclusive as the late Howard
Hughes. Fr. Holtschneiders e-mail read like the fictional inquisition over
who stole Captain Queegs strawberries in The Caine Mutiny.
Recently a student organization held what has become known on college campuses across the nation as an affirmative action bake sale. It was a provocative event viewed by many as an affront to DePauls values of respect and dignity. Concurrently it raised questions about our commitment to free speech.
DePaul has completed a comprehensive review of the event to determine whether it violated our Student Code of Conduct or our new
Anti-Discriminatory Harassment Policy. The reviewer interviewed or consulted with 20 people including members of the DePaul Conservative Alliance which hosted the event and students who challenged the message it sent.
DCA explained in the review that its event was designed to be a satirical protest against affirmative action, particularly as it relates to admission policies, that would generate awareness and prompt discourse on the topic. The event, which included a menu board with prices based on ones race and gender, has been viewed by members of the university community as blatantly offensive and contrary to many of DePauls values.
The review concluded that the bake sale was a protest and was intentionally misrepresented by DCA in its promotion table application, violating the Student Code of Conduct. As a result of these findings, the organization has been censured and sanctions have been applied. Our review also determined that the event did not violate the Anti-Discriminatory Harassment Policy because it was not directed at an individual, did not disrupt academic policy and did not demonstrate a pattern necessary to create a hostile environment.
Thereafter follows two sentences of platitudinous boilerplate attesting to the fact that DePaul is committed to anti-discrimination as well as fulsome free speech and debate. Then it orders what the Conservative Alliance and Nicholas hoped it would: in the words of Fr. Holtschneider there would be leveled a punishment: a series of forums on free speech and affirmative action at DePaul that would conclude in a debate pro-and-con on affirmative action. Wrote the president: These events will engage the academic units, Faculty Council, Student Affairs, University Mission and Values, Institutional Diversity, Staff Council, the Student Government Association and student organizations in forums that will be open to faculty, staff and students. In essence a breakthrough for free thought at a school only receptive to liberal and radical academic thought and to a blackout of the subject of Catholicism.
Then more suffocating platitudes about the Vincentian tradition which would have been news to St. Vincent DePaul, the saint after whom the university is named and the small band of priests who in 1886 wrote the university charter for the praise and honor of God and the Church. The Conservative Alliance was suspended from sponsoring a table for the next year and officially censured. And was forced to participate in the affirmative action debate.
Not bad, said Nicholas as we ordered him a second Coke. This is what we wantedthe opportunity to do what DePaul has advertised as a university and which it had steadfastly resisted until the Bake Sale: allowing students and faculty to explore all points of view on affirmative action and other issues. So he and his student colleagues are reenergized by their victories and ask challenging questions to professors who proclaim their hatred of this country as an aggressor and intentionally avoid all mention of Catholicism. They ask, hey, this is supposed to be a Catholic school, isnt it? Isnt it, huh? And, hey, professor, isnt what you just said a politicization of academia? Isnt it, huh?
In the turmoil at DePaul Nicholas thought whether or not he wants to be a priest. Unsurprising with the models he has at the school, he doesnt. But he wants to bring conservative values to a wider-range of people than just the Church, he says. To him Ronald Reagan is he symbol of what Nicholas wants to become as a future lawyer and what he hopes the nation will cling fast to.
From the outset, obviously, he and his Conservative Alliance and DePaul Republicans have been severe critics of the course The Wanderer has reported onthe atrocious minor labeled Queer Studies: 101. He doesnt knock the academic courses at DePaul, though, in the broad overall. And hes found some surprising authenticist sources like Fr. James Halstead, as an Augustinian the only non-Congregation of Mission priest on campus (not that there are a lot of priests: only about 17 plus a few ex-priests). Fr. Halstead is director of religious studies.
Now Nicholas Hahn III is a real somebody on campus due to his startling individualityas are his fellows. He got elected a student Senator. Each Senator is elected to represent a certain campus department, university school or student class. Nicholas represents the organization known as University Mission and Values, a group that is all but dormant in Catholic identity. As a Senator he is determined to set UM&V on a Catholic course. As result of the imbroglio at DePaul, he was called by WLS-AM, the 24-hour Chicago talk station and asked to come on the Eileen Byrne talk show. Byrne is a conservative hostess and a Catholic. Nicholas blasted Churchill on a telephonic hookup. And the president of the DePaul Republicans appeared on the Fox TV broadcast Hannity & Colmes.
Emboldened by his election as Senator, Nicholas called the office of the DePaul president and arranged an hour conference with Fr. Holtschneider on a one-on-one basis, telling the priest what he sought to accomplish by his election. Immediately Nicholas is pressing for a university conference that would begin the long process of restoring Catholic identity with nationally known Catholic speakers paid with hefty honoraria including Michael Novak, Dr. Thomas Woods (author of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization), Dr. Paul Kengor author of God and Ronald Reagan, and nationally known author George Weigel. And he has reached out through DePaul alumnus Karl Maurer to Catholic Citizens of Illinois, the grassroots group of authenticists headed by Mary Anne Hackett (full disclosure: this writer, a former adjunct professor of political science at DePaul is CCI chairman).
How did once solid and traditional DePaul end up indistinguishable from the more radical universities that are defamatory of Catholicism, Christianity and America? Slow but sure went the decadence. Fr. OMalley who served as president from 1944 to 1964, was a truly reverent educator. This writer attended DePaul graduate school during his tenure and it served up the best philosophical education possible. Fr. John Cortelyou followed him as president and there the weakness may have started: not just businessmen but those with little interest in education, just raising money started to gain more powerful leverage on the board than the priest-educators.
The slide really began with the administration of Fr. John T. Richardson as president in 1981. DePauls board became controlled by business types who hadnt cracked a book in twenty years. At the same time the usual suspects of the Irish mafia of the Democratic party took the reins and quid pro quo state and federal support came fast along with the disappearing Catholic identity. This reporter knew Fr. Richardson well, having served on a civic board with him. An affable scientist who mastered the dissimulation college politics now requires, he would mildly protest that the Catholic identity continued all the while controls moved of the vital hiring process slipped from the presidents office to the faculty. Catholic identity faded, then evaporated altogether. But the businessmen on the board rejoiced: Fr. Richardson was a great fund-raiser.
By the time Fr. Richardson retired (to become a missionary in Africa interestingly enough) the overwhelmingly secular nature of DePaul was completed. Another president, Fr. John Minogue was just as heedless of secularism but less a fund-raiser than Fr. Richardson so he was sent packing in short order. He has been succeeded by the man few know, who doesnt return phone calls to the media and is reported to be in one meeting after another and thus incommunicado, the media-skittish, near faceless Fr. Holtschneider.
He is reported by those few who have been privileged to see him, including Nicholas Hahn, to be interested in returning DePaul to its Catholic roots. As a first test, Nicholas asked about canceling Queer Studies. No can do, he said. Guess why? Although president, he has no power over the creation of academic minors. Really! Only a subset of the faculty does: which means that, if true, this locomotive is roaring down the track without an engineer, unaffected by its president or anyone else: just the faculty, largely politically radical and anti-Catholic, by all reports, hiring its pals, unable to be fired and accountable to no one, only themselves.
Thats what so-called Catholic education has come to, reportedly. But the locomotive can be halted by a sharp contributors withdrawal and lively protests and such a convulsion that somehow somebody will find a way to derail the train. . Catholic Citizens of Illinois plans a demonstration against Queer Studies: 101 when the Fall term begins. The letter Mrs. Hackett, the CEO, sent to the Vatican, including to Archbishop John Miller in charge of Catholic education, a man who used to give such eloquent sermons on the need to revive Catholic education, is still unanswered.
As for Nicholas Hahn III, he is spending the summer working as a paid intern at a prominent nationally-known law firm in the Loop. One hitch: its a liberal-oriented firm whose clients have been, among others, Michael Jackson which the firm represented in his recent trial on child molestation after which Jackson was acquitted. But Nicholas is enthused about his training there which gives him the chance to study evidence for cases, do simple memos and see that the lawyers are supplied with backup material for trials.
If you are as inspired by young Nicholas Hahn III and the DePaul Conservative Alliance as this writer is, contributions to help them carry on their work in the hostile environment would be welcomed.
Send contributions to DePaul Conservative Alliance, 2250 North Sheffield avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60614, attention: Nicholas Hahn III. Contact with him can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org. He pledges a completely audited statement. Knowing him as this reporter does after a lengthy, fact-filled interview, you can bank on it.