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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

University of Notre Dame global affairs and sociology professor Tamara Kay.

In solidarity with professor Tamara Kay

We write in response to The Irish Rover’s recent efforts to gather and publish the names of Notre Dame faculty, staff and graduate students who have contributed to Notre Dame professor Tamara Kay’s legal defense fund. In an unsigned email, donors were asked whether they wished to deny that they were contributors and were given ten hours to respond before The Irish Rover made their names public. 

This letter is our reply to The Irish Rover. In it, we explain, those who donated and those who did not, why we support professor Kay and why we signed this letter in solidarity with her. 

We signed because we believe professor Kay's academic freedom was being undermined. The vilification of professor Kay began after she published a series of carefully researched opinion pieces in major newspapers addressing the ramifications of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The personal attacks by people who disagreed with professor Kay's views represented an assault on every academic who chooses to research and write about controversial issues.

We signed because we suspected there was an orchestrated campaign to malign professor Kay and drive her away from the University, in violation of the du Lac Community StandardsStandards of Conduct and the Well-Being and Culture Policy. The discovery phase of professor Kay’s lawsuit showed justification for our concerns.  We encourage all members of the Notre Dame community to review coverage that appeared in The ObserverThe Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere to draw their own conclusions.

We signed because we were repulsed by the threats made against professor Kay for speaking for her beliefs. While The Irish Rover may focus on the technicalities of the lawsuit — and it is clear that technicalities often rule the day — we are collectively horrified by the threats of an utterly un-Christian nature that have been directed at professor Kay by self-professed defenders of the faith. We are deeply troubled by the revelations that Notre Dame students would be urged to depart from the positive sociality afforded by University life and promote a campaign of targeted harassment. We wonder whose values are being promoted and what, precisely, those values are.

We surmise that The Irish Rover intends to “expose” those willing to publicly support professor Kay; that, of course, is their right. Yet we wonder if the editors have reflected on the repercussions that may follow. Professor Kay was subjected to ongoing harassment, as well as rape and death threats because of the campaign against her — a campaign in which The Irish Rover played a central part. Does The Irish Rover wish to see such all too predictable threats made against other members of the Notre Dame community? Is this what passes for courageous journalism? Is it, as Father Sorin would have asked, the way to act as a force for good in the world?   

Yet perhaps the Irish Rover’s efforts can result in constructive outcomes. Those of us who support professor Kay have done so transparently. We have made our names public. We invite The Irish Rover to do likewise and share publicly the names of all those who support their activism.  We also ask The Irish Rover to condemn the hateful threats made against professor Kay and join a campus-wide conversation about how to address such charged topics. 

We are living through an extraordinarily dangerous moment of anger and polarization in this country. To survive it will require responsible people to act with wisdom, humility and grace. We believe that the entire Notre Dame community should be, must be and will be part of the solution. We hope we are not mistaken.


101 members affliated with Notre Dame

Feb. 14

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.