Paul’s Perambulations

September 23, 2008

“Who Would Jesus Train To Kill” Window Sign

Filed under: Peace,Religion — admin @ 11:40 pm

In response to a visit this evening concerning a sign in my window (see title above), I wrote the following email to my Department Chairperson. OSA refers to Order of Saint Augustine. There is more information and a picture at my website (click on Conscience and Militarism).

Hello Tom,

It was good to speak with you a few minutes ago in reference to my being visited a few minutes earlier by Corporal Hall of Villanova Security, his presence at my door being at the request of certain members of the OSA complaining about my sign.  It was good to confirm that you have spoken previously with Fr. Peter concerning my sign, as have I, and to confirm that his response was not of a critical nature.  In fact, my sign has generated some meaningful interaction with a number of members of religious orders on campus, including members of the OSA.  No one has ever questioned the appropriateness of my placing it in my window.  I believe it poses a relevant question for each to answer in his/her own heart — it does not propose any specific answer. My website  provides further information.

What is my response to learning that some members of OSA appear to be unhappy with this sign?

1.  I believe most strongly both that this sign is appropriate for a Christian institution, and that I have a right (indeed, an obligation) in my academic position to pose such a question.

2.  I intend to keep this sign (or a copy) in my office window while I am a tenured faculty member.  It is not my intention to be confrontational.  The fact that some may disagree with the sign, or even may find it upsetting, does not lessen its value as a catalyst for significant discussion.  It is my sense that this is what an academic institution is all about.

Peace,   Paul

p.s.  Villanova later removed any mention of the word PEACE from its Mission Statement.



  1. I learned later that the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, the number two man at the University, had asked my Chairman to speak with me about taking the sign down. He wisely replied “It would be pointless.” It is amazing the effect a simple sign can have, if you say the right (wrong) thing.

    Comment by admin — January 12, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  2. The American Association of University Professors provides the following guidelines for academic freedom of expression:

    The statement that follows was approved by the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in June 1992 and adopted by the Association’s Council in November 1994.

    Freedom of thought and expression is essential to any institution of higher learning. Universities and colleges exist not only to transmit knowledge. Equally, they interpret, explore, and expand that knowledge by testing the old and proposing the new. This mission guides learning outside the classroom quite as much as in class, and often inspires vigorous debate on those social, economic, and political issues that arouse the strongest passions. In the process, views will be expressed that may seem to many wrong, distasteful, or offensive. Such is the nature of freedom to sift and winnow ideas.

    The statement that follows was approved by the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and adopted by the Association’s Council in November 1999.

    A distinct criterion of collegiality also holds the potential of chilling faculty debate and discussion. Criticism and opposition do not necessarily conflict with collegiality. Gadflies, critics of institutional practices or collegial norms, even the occasional malcontent, have all been known to play an invaluable and constructive role in the life of academic departments and institutions. They have sometimes proved collegial in the deepest and truest sense. Certainly a college or university replete with genial Babbitts is not the place to which society is likely to look for leadership. It is sometimes exceedingly difficult to distinguish the constructive engagement that characterizes true collegiality from an obstructiveness or truculence that inhibits collegiality. Yet the failure to do so may invite the suppression of dissent. The very real potential for a distinct criterion of “collegiality” to cast a pall of stale uniformity places it in direct tension with the value of faculty diversity in all its contemporary manifestations.

    Comment by admin — January 13, 2009 @ 8:22 am

  3. I retired from full-time employment to adjunct status on January 1, 2009. I vacated my office of more than 40 years on that same day and removed my signs at that time.

    Comment by admin — January 21, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  4. My sign also was the occasion for a visit from Villanova’s Executive Director of Facilities Management, Robert Morro. He and his assistant appeared suddenly at my door one day, for the point of inquiring about the sign in my window and why was it there. I had never met the gentleman before, and this did not feel like a simple courtesy visit. I explained that the window message posed a question in accord with the Villanova Mission Statement, and that I hoped it would foster discussion within the Villanova community. He wondered about making such a message so public. In response I explained about the faculty’s long tradition, developed in conjunction with our legal rights and obligations, to contribute to the mission of higher education in whatever ways we could best be of service. I particularly noted the long-standing tradition and right of faculty to use their doors and windows for such purposes, and that I had no intention to break with this traditional right. I did mention that it was not my intention to offend anyone, and I think he appreciated this. In the end we shook hands firmly, and the two of them went off.

    Comment by admin — January 12, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

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