Editor, the Gauntlet,
In a recent article to the Gauntlet regarding the de-sanctioning of the club Campus Pro-Life [“Letter from the SU prez: Why Campus Pro-Life was de-sanctioned,” Feb. 26], SU president Dalmy Baez attempted to exculpate her organization for its actions. As this article gave false impressions which may mislead the student body, it seems wise to shine further light upon the matter.
First off, it struck me as ironic that one piece of writing could both profess to uphold freedom of speech and subtly perpetuate a myth which threatens to undermine it. To wit, the idea that a person has the freedom to speak provided their words cannot be construed as offensive. Leaving aside the debatable claim that the display of Campus Pro-Life was offensive, let us investigate the underlying assumptions of this statement. The major assumption, of course, is that it is worse for a person to be offended than for another to be silenced.
Wait a second though, isn’t the right to free speech for offensive messages? Was it not a fight to establish free speech? Its initiation must therefore have offended someone, or against who was the struggle for its establishment? It seems that freedom of speech necessarily means that a person’s right to speak is of higher import than the offence it could cause. While there may be limits to freedom of speech, offence certainly cannot constitute as such.
With this glaring contradiction in Ms. Baez’s article in mind, let us proceed to other points raised. She notes that the University had its lawyers send a letter to Campus Pro-Life which placed restrictions upon the display called the Genocide Awareness Project. She further states that such a letter constitutes university policy. This conclusion, despite how helpful it would be to the wishful claims of Ms. Baez and others who dream of disrupting freedom of speech, is erroneous. This letter was part of a series of communications between Campus Pro-Life and the University of Calgary. As communication documents are not legally binding until an agreement has been reached, and as an agreement has not been reached, it is not a legally binding document.
Even granting that this document was legally binding, and hence a policy, the restrictions laid out were dangerous to the idea of free speech, as it was only the pro-life viewpoint which was expected to be bound by the policy. The primary restriction laid out in this letter was a demand that Campus Pro-Life turn their signs inwards.
From the perspective of free speech this is unacceptable. Some may argue that Campus Pro-Life should turn their signs inwards because they cannot force someone to view them. While certainly freedom of speech does not allow them to force someone to view their display, I am to date unaware of any incidents in which they captured an unsuspecting passerby, bound him head and foot, pushed open his eyes and forced him to behold the signs. If anyone has noted such behaviour, by all means notify Campus Security. If not, I can hardly see how they have forced anyone to view the signs. Every person has the option of averting their gaze.
The true reasons, however, for the SU’s actions against Campus Pro-Life were revealed in a gloating passage from Ms. Baez’s article. She stated that “the SU agreed” with the limitations put down by the university; so much for the SU acting impartially in the de-sanctioning of Campus Pro-Life. The true reason, it now seems, they de-sanctioned the club was because they agreed with the sentiments expressed in the letter from the university to Campus Pro-Life, not because such a letter constituted policy.
This agreement reveals either political doublespeak or schizophrenia. Nothing else could explain how Ms. Baez, in a single article, can support Campus Pro-Life’s right to an open forum while simultaneously agreeing with the university that we should not be given one. In conclusion, the SU and its president, were not acting on any policy (real or imagined) but rather on personal bias. I hope this letter has helped prevent the next generation of Canadian politicians from hoodwinking their fellow university students.
Letter: Response to the prez
Editor, the Gauntlet,