From Jo Jo Ruba of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform:
November 24, 2008: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNIVERSITY BULLIES AND THREATENS ITS OWN STUDENTS
University of Calgary Pro Life club members assert their right to freedom of speech
The University of Calgary is threatening arrest, fines, expulsion and suspension of its own students if they express their views on abortion through a controversial display on campus.
Although these students have exhibited signs from the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) five times on campus without incident, the university is now demanding them to face their signs inwards so no passers-by can see the signs, effectively censoring the students.
“Rather than fulfilling its mission of being a forum where all views can be expressed and debated, the university is censoring a minority opinion on the basis of anonymous complaints,” points out Alanna Campbell, of Campus Pro life (CPL), the student club which sponsors the display.
Dr. Harvey Weingarten, president of the U of C, has stated, "The role of universities is to promote, permit and enable the free exchange of ideas, debate and civil discourse. If universities do not support these values, which societal institutions will?” (Academic Freedom Needs to Come First: Canadians Universities React to Proposed Academic Boycott, Sara Hanson, The Gauntlet, July 19, 2007). The president’s comment reflects the university’s own policy laid out in its Academic Calendar showing that the University aims “to promote free inquiry and debate”.
The university justifies the censorship because of some anonymous complaints about the display, and claims that the display could cause others to be violent if faced outward, even though this has not happened the previous five occasions.
“Banning an event because of the possibility of someone else being violent towards it, is like telling women they are not allowed to walk on campus at night because of the possibility they may be sexually assaulted,” stated Leah Halllman, president of CPL. “The right solution to that potential crime is to provide lighting and security to deter the person who might commit such a crime, not to ban the women.” Hallman adds that her group requires all of its GAP display participants to agree to a code of conduct, which includes a commitment of non-violence.
GAP is a peaceful, educational display which utilizes 4x8-foot signs to show the reality of abortion to the public, drawing comparisons between it and other genocides. Hallman states that the students just want to exercise their legal right to peacefully express their views without the fear of censorship because views like theirs should be debated at a university.
“We do not want to be arrested, but the university’s attempt to bully us is wrong. If the university can silence our viewpoint on campus just because it’s unpopular in some quarters, then they can censor other views as well,” says first-year student and vice president of CPL, Cameron Wilson. "Being told to turn signs inward is like being told that you can express your views as long as nobody can hear you.”
The students plan to defy the university’s censorship demand and exercise their free-speech rights on campus on Wednesday November 26 and Thursday November 27.
For more information please contact:
Leah Hallman, CPL President (403-808-3412)
Cameron Wilson, CPL Vice President (403-465-9164).
More detailed information can be found at: www.campusprolife.com