Free speech or hate speech?
Is my personal right to choose what I do with my body the same as the slaughter of 12 million living, breathing, Jewish, gypsy, deaf, blind, disabled, mentally ill, left-handed and any other non-Aryan human beings by an insecure hate-filled, fear-filled country? I do not think so. And to claim that, as the Students for Life display outside the Cuddy Hall has done, is hate speech. There can be no doubt about that.
The campus display of the anti-choice views of a small group of people was inappropriate, offensive and misleading. To compare the Holocaust with a woman’s personal, private right to control her body is cruel and, in truth, disgusting. Unless the demonstrator planted their seed of a baby inside my body, they have no right, no right, to tell me how to move through that experience. And to show inaccurate and purposefully disturbing images on a college campus? Shame on them.
My heart goes out to every woman who has ever had to make that choice and to any who are recently grieving and have to face the hate-mongers today or choose to skip their classes and forfeit their educational opportunity.
And my prayers go to those who are demonstrating. I pray that the truth of love fills their hearts and that they find their way to that light, instead of the artificial glare of their own hatred.
UAA contract employee
Chancellor responds to complaints
(This e-mail was sent by the chancellor’s office April 15.)
My office has received phone calls objecting to the demonstration currently on campus.
The sponsoring UAA student club, UAA Students for Life, followed all of the procedures required – working with Student Life, UAA Advancement and UPD – in obtaining a permit for the demonstration today and tomorrow. There is never any review, sanctioning or censuring of the content of demonstrations.
Free speech is an important part of every university and a core value of the University of Alaska. UAA supports freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. We will not limit or abridge any individual’s constitutional rights. Regardless of how much you or I might object to the content or the message of a demonstration, we must allow diverse voices to be heard at UAA.
UPD is available to monitor demonstration activities and to ensure – as they do every day – that all students, faculty, staff and visitors are safe, and that noise does not disrupt classes or work at UAA.
Student offended and disturbed
(The following e-mail was sent to USUAA April 15.)
Today I was quite upset to see the “genocide” display in the quad. I was asked each time I passed if I wanted information and answered no and continued walking. It finally got to me. I felt as though I had been violated. I found the images offensive and disturbing. I understand that it is free speech and demonstrations are a part of our government’s freedom, but I was appalled to find that the university invited such a group of individuals to be on the center of campus.
As I was finally upset enough to ask them how they were allowed to be on campus – after all, isn’t it considered private property to an extent? – I was informed by the UPD officers standing nearby that it was free speech and they could not remove them. In addition the group of young ladies informed me that a UAA club invited them to be there and that it was public property.
My upset only grew. I do not feel that students should pay to be submitted to such imagery. I pay fees like other students, and to find that my fees are funding clubs that invite people to campus to that make me feel violated and harassed makes me lose the little faith I had in USUAA and Club Council. It drives my desire to become involved in the university even lower and disgusts me that faculty, staff, students and professors walk by unaffected. However, there is comfort in UPD’s presence; at least when a student is pushed too far they will be there to step in.
I know I’m just one student in the thousands of those attending classes on the main Anchorage campus, but if I’m one student who feels this way, how many more are behind me? As I told the ladies at the booth, I’m not saying your beliefs are wrong, just that the images offend me and I don’t think students should not only be subjected to seeing them, but also have to help fund them through student fees. I urge USUAA and Club Council to pay more attention to what clubs are doing. I believe in individual expression, and students who find good in being involved should be, but promoting such controversial, and offensive to some, displays should be looked at closer before UAA supports it.
(The Northern Light advertising representative)
USUAA supports club involvement
(This e-mail was a reply from a USUAA senator to Heather Gower.)
I’m truly sorry the presentation yesterday was so upsetting for you and many other students. I too found the images disturbing and upsetting.
Nevertheless, I value the right to free speech. Furthermore, I applaud the Students for Life group for working together toward a common goal and getting involved at the university. As a student leader I understand the challenges of getting students involved as active participants.
I was present at the Club Council meeting when Students For Life became a recognized club. I voted for their membership because I feel the university is the proper place to grapple with difficult and controversial issues. The leaders of the club assured Club Council members that they would not be requesting funds to put on programs like the one yesterday. As far as I know, no student fees were used to fund the event.
I was delighted to hear many frank conversations around campus yesterday about the nature of the event. I was even more delighted to hear the conversations shift to the merits of the arguments made by the group.
Students were debating real and important issues, and for that I applaud Students For Life.
Again, I am sorry the demonstration was so upsetting. I encourage you to find an alternate route today, and I hope you will continue to utilize USUAA for your student needs.