The University of Calgary pro-life student group was served with their first formal warning from the U of C after a series of one-on-one non-academic misconduct hearings for members April 28 and 30.
The hearings were a result of the latest Genocide Awareness Project display from the group late in the winter semester. The display shows graphic images of aborted fetus tissue that the group compared to the victims of the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide. Members of the group were notified that they were being charged with a violation under Section 4.10 of the U of C's Non-Academic Misconduct Policy for "failure to comply with a Campus Security officer or University official in legitimate pursuit of his/her duties."
This was the ninth GAP display by Campus Pro-Life at the U of C since 2006 in what has become an ongoing saga of threats of legal action.
"We received a letter last week telling us that we were found guilty of violating the non-academic misconduct policy and we were given a formal warning," said CPL president Alanna Campbell. "Basically saying that if we do this again, it will be much more serious."
"I can certainly say that related to the decision and related to the hearings and the disciplinary action that it is totally confidential on our side," said U of C media relations officer Grady Semmens. "Certainly students on campus, whether they're part of clubs or not, are expected to behave according to all the [university regulations] that are in place. And if they are doing things that are deemed inappropriate, whether it's related to academics or not, disciplinary action can be taken."
In November 2009, the university asked the group to turn their signs inwards. After they failed to comply, the school charged six students with trespassing. These charges were ultimately stayed by the Alberta Crown Prosecutors' Office.
Campbell said that the university's warning was unlikely to deter the group from putting up the display in the future, as they don't believe they've done anything wrong or have anything to be found guilty of.
Campbell said that her group is still waiting to hear back from the U of C after filing an appeal to the warning.
"If the appeal fails, we would take it to the civil court, within the actual justice system," said Campbell.
Campbell said she hasn't seen the university target other groups in a similar way.
"The requests that we turn our signs inwards, I've never seen that applied to any other group on campus, regardless of content in the display," she said. "That's the only thing I can come up with is that it's the content that is the basis for discrimination."
Students' Union president Lauren Webber said she doesn't find the university's actions discriminatory against the pro-life group. She said if CPL had accepted the SU's offer to host their event in MacEwan Student Centre instead of the courtyard, they wouldn't have had problems with Campus Security that ultimately led to the non-academic misconduct hearings.
"We don't like to see any students faced with this kind of disciplinary action," said Webber.
Campbell said that the Genocide Awareness Project creates an outlet for people at the university to explore views that they might never have known they had or develop a stance on an important issue.
"They've absolutely been effective," said Campbell. "We try to do a number of things and activities to reach people on campus, but this particular project has been really successful at reaching people."
When asked about the future of Campus Pro-Life at the university after this warning, Campbell said she believes that her message is more important than remaining at the U of C.
"I think if we back down from expressing our rights of freedom of expression on campus and being a voice for the unborn, I'd rather be kicked out of school than graduate with a degree that just reminds me of me being a coward and being selfish, choosing a degree over my beliefs," said Campbell.