#58

UNIVERSITIES: HOSTILE GROUNDS FOR PRO-LIFERS

It still takes incredible courage nowadays - real guts - for students to be openly involved in pro-life work on our stridently pro-choice university campuses. The animosity and, yes, violence directed at those trying to exercise their freedom of expression is indeed astonishing. Some of our most prestigious universities, once bastions of academic freedom, now seem to be hatching a batch of little storm troopers who are not being taught how to think, but rather what to think. Instances of the on-going repression of pro-life speech at our institutions of higher learning abound in Canada and the United States - in many instances with the tacit approval of university administrators and student leaders themselves who contest the right of pro-life groups to even exist.

In perhaps the crudest attack, actually captured on video, pro-life students were assaulted in late 1999 as they stood peacefully beside their display tables at the University of British Columbia. The UBC Students For Life had just set up an informational exhibit, entitled the ‘Genocide Awareness Project,’ consisting of signs and posters that compared abortion with other forms of genocide like slavery and the Holocaust. The display was also in protest of the university's restriction on pro-life free speech. Hysterical students running amok upset the tables, tore the posters and shredded all the literature. Not only were there no sanctions exercised by the university, but the Genocide Awareness Project was effectively banned from campus when authorities placed impossible restrictions on the presenting group, the Center for Bio-ethical Reform, which had been invited to campus by the students. They were told to pay an incredible $10,000 per day for security costs plus an exorbitant $5,000 deposit for damage that might be done by persons opposing (!) their exhibit. (This university-protected trashing is available as a real video file at http://lifesite.vservers.com/ldn/1999/video/ubcthoughtpolice.rm)

It`s impossible to escape the impression that at universities these days politically correct propaganda directs the appointment of staff, censors textbooks, determines budgets, heavily influences student grades, and ruthlessly opposes and if possible suppresses any semblance of non-conforming opinion. This mindset explains why such an organization as Students for Life seem to be universally despised on campuses, while its counterpart Students for Choice enjoys unprecedented popularity.

One would think that any widely recognized university campus would be a logical place for a small group of pro-life students to gather, educate and debate. Think again. Speaking up for life in front of often hostile crowds at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, is in reality a brave and very daunting thing to do. Those who have dared are hissed at in class registration lines, interrogated by the school newspaper and yelled out of off-campus women`s rallies.

If you set up a pro-life information table at the University of Toronto, you stand a chance of being showered with condoms - that is, if your display is not stolen. Even posters of developing fetuses and entwined wedding bands are regarded as deeply offensive. In British Columbia, pro-life students at both the University of Victoria and University College of the Cariboo, in Kamloops, have been told by student councils that they cannot exist as recognized campus groups.

If CARAL (Canadian Abortion Rights Action League) - the Canadian clone of NARAL (the U.S. National Abortion Rights Action League) - had its way, student pro-life groups would not be permitted on a Canadian campus. Its executive director Marilyn Wilson says, "I think that any group preaching against a basic human right such as choice does not belong on campus. They are preaching hate and anti-woman violence. We think it is equivalent to a hate crime." To interpret or paraphrase this idiotic statement: "The right of a mother to a dead child is paramount and must not ever be contested on university campuses."

Although not a pro-lifer lawyer, Craig Jones has defended several Canadian pro-life students` right of free expression. He rightfully laments that, "Pro-life students have no champions within the power structure of today`s universities. They are ideal targets for discriminatory action." This shouldn`t be surprising at all to anyone familiar with the current academic world. Many of the present crop of professors in universities should in fact be called ideologues rather than university teachers opened to their students holding a wide range of opinions. This is especially true for those involved with women`s studies, law and political faculties - and even now trickling down to science departments. It makes one wonder if intelligence is not a handicap for our profoundly atheistic university professors to their understanding of a traditional Christian approach to abortion and fetal rights. One thing is for sure, the Sixties radicals are still with us, but now they do not paralyse the universities; they run them as thought police would.

As already illustrated, politically correct student councils are overwhelmingly unfriendly to activist pro-life students on their campuses. Their umbrella organization here in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, has an official pro-choice policy similar to CARAL`s which states dogmatically: "Free speech is when you express your own view. But when you say to someone else, you are wrong, it is a problem. It is a difficult issue to balance free speech and intimidation on the part of pro-life groups. When does the right to free speech stop? When it intimidates someone else." Again, paraphrasing this psychobabble: "Don’t offend anyone because their delicate psyche might suffer irreparable damage." You`d think this pompous national student organization was referring to kindergarten children! Universities and their student leaders must be blind not to realize just how lamentably far they have departed from the true aim of free inquiry and the liberal arts.

Ironically, as we can observe, the real assault on academic freedom is not coming from semi-educated majorities or barbarians at the university gates, but from its supposed guardians. Institutions that pretend to advance human progress but refuse to uphold, encourage and will not promote human life in all its stages of development, deny in fact the very essence of what a university should be. How fast we`ve lost sight of the historic fact that many of the worst crimes against humanity have been carried out under political directives from university-educated elites and professionals. In the short half-century period since the Nazi regime, our hospitals have again become killing centres and their research laboratories centres "of excellence" for bizarre medical experiments.

To put it succinctly as I can, universities - sadly, even some Christian ones - are a shambles, dominated not as they like to claim by teaching, research and scholarship, but by political correctness, rock bottom morale, and widespread mediocrity. They might as well post their own signs: "Pro-life students should keep their opinions to themselves. Pro-life faculty should put their conscience in a blind trust for the term of their association with this institution." Then again, do they really have to?

Thaddée Renault

New Brunswick, Canada


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