By Emily Faulkner, President, CSU Students for Life
There sure has been a lot of buzz around CSU being sued by the student organization Students for Life. In response to an extremely erroneous article published yesterday, I write to straighten things out a little bit.
Erik Petrovich wrote yesterday in the Collegian that Students for Life made “wild, unverified and overblown claims” in their federal lawsuit against the University. In reality, they were sound allegations against the University. When a public university denies funding to a student group for no apparent reason, except that the content the speaker presents “does not appear entirely unbiased as it addresses the topic of abortion”, you have a serious free speech issue on your hands. To take it even further, this so-called Diversity Grant is funded from student activity fees. In case you were not aware, that fee totals around $800 per student per semester. I know what you’re thinking: “If we are all paying into this grant, shouldn’t it be distributed in a viewpoint neutral fashion?” Sadly, the answer was no in this case. The decision on who gets the grant is decided by a panel of students and faculty who have no guidelines to follow when selecting who the grant goes to. Petrovich claimed that “with no sound basis, the group accuses CSU of allocating activity funds based on its own viewpoints”. But, Mr. Petrovich, I am sorry to tell you that you are wrong. Just look at the lawsuit (which I am sure you did not read, unlike me). There truly are no guidelines that the panel has for selecting who is awarded with this grant; it is solely based on their viewpoints.
I will have to agree with Petrovich for one quick second though. He is right; free speech is not granted by CSU, thank God! (end agreement). CSU should protect our rights as given by the Constitution. But he is foolish in maintaining that the freedom of speech cannot be taken away by CSU. It certainly can, and was, taken away by the university. I would like to challenge you, Mr. Petrovich, and ask, if public institutions cannot take away our First Amendment rights, why then were students at the Kellogg Community College in Michigan arrested for no reason for passing out pocket constitutions on Constitution Day? Why was Students for Life blatantly denied funding for an event from a grant that that they met every single criteria for? Exactly. Oh and in case you didn’t read the Diversity Grant either, the sole purpose of it is to “raise awareness of differing perspectives.” Denying funding because “the speaker does not appear entirely unbiased as he addresses the topic of abortion” sure sounds like they are trying to raise awareness of a differing perspective. They should call it the “Diversity Grant as long as you agree with me grant”.
Now, let’s talk about the actual speaker and his organization and how Petrovich butchered the whole purpose of the Equal Rights Institute. The mission of the Equal Rights Institute clearly states: “Equal Rights Institute trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.” Petrovich was extremely misguided in saying that the organization teaches that being “pro-choice is philosophically wrong, and that being pro-life is a declaration of body rights”. First off, the talk has nothing to do with pro-lifers claiming bodily rights. That is a pro-choice argument. Secondly, nowhere in their mission does it say anything resembling what Petrovich claims. The speech was entitled “Bodily Rights: The Ultimate Abortion Argument”. It was intended to address the “my body, my choice” argument, and teach effective dialogue to people on both sides of the issue. I am not sure where he got the idea that the words of the speaker “would only matter to a very select few organizations and like-minded individuals”. The goal of the Equal Rights Institute is to “help pro-life advocates to reason well about difficult arguments, but also to ask the right kinds of questions so they become better at understanding different views” and to “encourage pro-life advocates to be open-minded, even about abortion.” The Equal Rights Institute believes that one should only “exhibit stubbornness and an unwillingness to go where truth leads if you’re afraid you’re wrong. We want to see productive dialogue between people who disagree, and open-mindedness makes productive dialogue possible.”
This completely negates Petrovich’s faulty claims that the Equal Rights Institute’s goal is to “educate already pro-life activists and citizens into being able to convince others that being pro-life is right, and that being pro-choice is ethically and morally wrong”. Petrovich, you need to do your research. I would also encourage you to read up on the First Amendment before you think that a university deciding “not to allow certain speakers on campus” isn’t a flagrant violation of the freedom of speech.