The Campus Pro-Life club was recently de-sanctioned by the Students' Union. As President of the Students' Union I am writing to explain why.
For the past few years Campus Pro-Life has run an event called the Genocide Awareness Project which features displays of aborted fetuses, victims of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide among other images.
Every time the event takes place it has a significant impact on the campus community. The SU receives complaints from some students expressing their discomfort over the images and hears from other students who purposely avoid the display by taking detours across campus. Alternately, other students support the event or remain indifferent.
This year, before the GAP event took place, the university informed Campus Pro-Life that they were required to turn their signs inward so that people could choose whether or not they wanted to view the displays. With this information, the SU issued a letter to the Pro-Life Club stipulating that while the event was approved (all club events must be approved by the SU), this permission would not absolve the club from following any of the rules or limitations imposed on the event by the venue provider, in this case the university. The SU agreed that giving students the choice to view this display was the best way to ensure that the interests of all students were met-- those who support the message and the way it is being delivered and those who do not wish to view the images because of their disturbing content.
In spite of the letter sent to Campus Pro-Life, the club proceeded to violate the regulations set out by the university. The SU has measures in place in the event any club violates university regulations, including possible de-sanctioning. These measures are agreed to by every club as a condition for becoming sanctioned under the Students' Union. Campus Pro-Life was no exception.
Campus Pro-Life has argued that they have violated no written rule or policy. However, the university was quite clear in outlining the conditions by which they could set up their display. They even put it in writing. By ignoring these stipulations the Students' Union and the university believe that their rules have been broken.
The decision to de-sanction the club was not about the issue of abortion. It was about holding a club accountable for violating clearly communicated rules and policies. The Students' Union does not take a stance on the abortion issue. We believe the students we represent are capable of forming their own opinions. For this reason we have supported the club and its right to have a presence on campus for years.
The Students' Union unequivocally believes that students subscribing to pro-life values have the right to share and promote their views on campus. However, like any other campus group, their message must be delivered with a respect for all students.