Sub-Rosa Catholicism

Via Feministe, I've just come across this article in the Journal of Higher Education. If the article presents a fair depiction of Georgetown's present public interest funding policy, and it seems likely that it does given that the author was able to interview both Dean Aleinikoff and the Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Public Interest, I am now very glad that I chose not to go to Georgetown Law.

Georgetown, like most top law schools, offers funding for students to pursue unpaid internships in public interest fields during the summer. It's thanks to such a funding program at Columbia that I was able to work last summer for Project Renewal on housing issues for the homeless and mentally ill in New York City. Georgetown is apparently more selective than Columbia in distributing public interest monies, which isn't surprising given Georgetown's large student body. Nonetheless, to every appearance Georgetown has not in the past engaged in subject matter-based discrimination in its funding of internships. This has now changed.

In years past Georgetown has funded public interest fellowships with Planned Parenthood and other organizations that work for abortion rights. That policy, apparently, is no longer operative. This year at least one first-year student was told that Georgetown would not provide her with funding for the summer because the institution could not provide funds for abortion-rights advocacy. The university told her this in April, as finals approached, after she had already accepted an internship with Planned Parenthood, and with about a month left before her internship was to begin. Georgetown justifies the policy on the grounds that it is a Jesuit institution and, as such, cannot fund abortion rights advocacy since abortion is contrary to Catholic Church doctrine.

I don't dispute that Georgetown is within its rights to do this. My problem is that Georgetown Law takes every measure possible to hide the Catholic affiliation that it is now using to justify this move. If this had happened at Notre Dame Law, I would have shrugged and said, "That's unfortunate, but not really unexpected," because Notre Dame is up-front about its catholicism start to finish. It's in every piece of recruiting literature they send out. Students who attend Notre Dame are put on notice that the school's role as a Catholic institution will be a major factor in all aspects of education there.

Georgetown, by contrast, is circumspect about their Jesuit nature. Like most top law schools, Georgetown has been trying for years to eliminate any perceptual barriers to entry among potential students. Law schools want the best students they can get, not the best Catholic students they can get, or the best in-state students they can get. That's why the big state law schools have slowly been eliminating admissions preferences for in-state students and that's why parochial schools emphasize the religious diversity of their student-body. It's why Georgetown trumpets in their admissions brochures the existence of the J. Reuben Clark Society (LDS Law Students), the Georgetown Jewish Law Student Association, and the Muslim Law Student Association among its officialy sanctioned student groups.

I applied to Georgetown Law and very nearly went there; it was between it and Columbia at the very end. In the entire recruiting process I had only the vaguest awareness that Georgetown Law was Jesuit. At the time I was obsessed with the admissions process; I read every scrap of paper and pamphlet sent to me by every school I was interested in, and I spent every moment of break reading the various schools's web sites. The only time the term Jesuit was mentioned was in brief descriptions of the school's history ("Georgetown was founded as the first Jesuit school in the nation. Today, it is a diverse community etc. etc.") and as justification for Georgetown's commitment to public service. Georgetown Law does everything it can to tell students "Technically, we're Catholic, but that won't have any impact whatsoever on your legal education here."

By amending its summer funding policy, Georgetown appears to be taking affirmative measures to turn itself into an institution that only supports students whose political positions agree with those of the Catholic Church. They're free to do that, but they have to accept the consequences of that and advertise the fact to prospective students. If I had known then where Georgetown was and where it was heading, my decision on where to attend law school would have been a lot easier.

February 2012
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29      

Contact Zach


Webcomics of Which I am a Fan

Sites I Read Daily: Politics

Sites I Read Daily: Video Gaming

Sites I Read Daily: General Miscellany

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Zach published on April 7, 2007 2:57 PM.

See You On the Other Side! was the previous entry in this blog.

My Time is Not Very Valuable is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 5.04