CMU looking into student who dressed as pope

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Carnegie Mellon University is continuing its review into whether any disciplinary action will be taken against a female student who participated in a campus parade last month dressed as the pope and naked from the waist down.

"We are still in the review process," Carnegie Mellon spokesman Ken Walters said today. "Once we know something, we'll get it out there."

The review was prompted by a request from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which expressed concern about an incident that occurred at an on-campus parade known as the "Annual Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby." The parade, which took place April 18 as part of the university's spring carnival, involved students from the university's College of Fine Arts.

Photographs taken at the parade showed one of those students dressed in an ensemble that resembles the clothing worn by the pope, but only from the waist up. She wore nothing on the lower part of her body, and she had a cross shaved into her pubic area.

The photographs were sent to diocesan officials, who contacted Carnegie Mellon to ask for the review into behavior church officials have described as offensive. Bishop David Zubik has said he expected to hear from CMU by the end of last week, but Mr. Walters said today CMU has not released a timeline for the review.

The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, said they would continue to wait for the review's conclusion.

"We understand that these things take time," he said. "And we know that this will have an end to it."

As for why the diocese has pursued the review, Father Lengwin said "the importance is that nudity is not a matter of freedom of speech. And secondly we need to be sensitive to one another's beliefs even though they may be different."

University President Jared Cohon sent an email last Wednesday to faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees about the incident, calling the student's act "highly offensive" and apologizing to those who were offended. He wrote that the university was still determining if disciplinary action would be taken.

The student newspaper reported that the letter prompted a protest on campus last week, and it also resulted in the creation of a Facebook group, now with more than 1,000 members, asking people to reply to Mr. Cohon's email with letters of their own urging the protection of freedom of expression on campus.

The student at the center of the issue has not been named and did not reply today to an emailed request for comment. In an article published on the website of The Tartan, the student newspaper, she was quoted anonymously as saying that her performance was offensive, "but look at the conversation it's started on campus."

Her performance, she told The Tartan, was intended to criticize Pope Benedict XVI's handling of the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

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Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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