SMU Must Act Against the Students To Maintain Any Credibility

Media Release

For Immediate Release

February 9, 2009

University statement regarding Jose Ruba presentation

The University remains committed to academic freedom, diversity of opinion, and supports open debate in a forum that does not put the personal safety and rights of our community at risk. There is a balance that must be maintained among all of these.

Last Thursday, Feb. 5, protesters tried unsuccessfully to silence guest speaker, Jose Ruba, who had been invited by Saint Mary’s University students to make a presentation.

Protesters were asked to stop disrupting the event, but after more than an hour and a half, the presentation was relocated to a nearby location. Protesters were given the opportunity to ask questions and debate the speaker’s points, but they chose instead to shout slogans and prevented him from fully presenting.

Relocating the event, though regrettable, allowed the speaker to complete his presentation.

The University is currently reviewing the matter.

Saint Mary's University

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For More Information:

Blake Patterson
Public Affairs Officer
Saint Mary’s University, Public Affairs
(902) 420.5514
E-mail: blake.patterson@smu.ca
www.smu.ca

Dear Mr. Patterson,

I wish to communicate in the strongest possible way my concern and disgust at the display of intolerant behaviour by the pro-abortion students.  While the university cannot control the immaturity and totalitarian tendencies of those it seeks to educate, it most certainly does have the authority and ability to ensure a forum for open inquiry and debate on controversial topics.

Failure of the university to act swiftly against those students with appropriate disciplinary measures will send a strong message to the pro-life and Christian constituencies of your university and the country as a whole.

I trust the University understands that its very credibility as a place of inquiry and higher learning hangs in the balance.  I doubt very much that SMU would want to be known as a shill for the pro-abortion and pro-censorship forces in the country.

Yours very truly,

John Pacheco
Social Conservatives United

One thought on “SMU Must Act Against the Students To Maintain Any Credibility

  1. John,

    Clarifications may be in order here. The protests held were not organized by a student group. The protesters were led by Coalition For Choice, a grassroots organization that espouses pro-choice values across the country. Some protesters were students, but most were not. To demand disciplinary action against members of such an organization is to discipline people due to their free association with a group whose opinions run counter to your own. This in itself would be an act that would stifle debate.

    On the topic of stifling debate, it can be argued (as it has been in circles at Saint Mary’s) that the very nature of the lecture served to shut down divergent opinions. The public lecture was promoted by a pro-life group and led by a lecturer who himself is pro-life. The same lecturer was given the authority to moderate questions from the floor. This gives proponents of one side of an argument the opportunity to determine who can speak, and for how long, without any chance for rebuttal. This develops a framework for a monologue instead of a dialogue, thereby becoming an outward sign from the beginning that divergent opinions will not be respected at the talk. Many students on campus are wondering if was indeed possible for anyone with a divergent opinion to have even asked a question an enter into a free debate in the first place.

    If this lecture was truly in the spirit of “free speech,” “dialogue,” and “open ideas,” then its entire format should have been different to allow for people who have different viewpoints to even have a fair chance to speak. To suggest that a lecturer of any discussion – let alone a discussion on such an important topic as abortion – can also moderate his discussion is a little short-sighted. A person in such a role can control who can ask questions, and how long that person can speak for. Whether or not the speaker would stifle debate, the lecture’s frames of reference from the very outset becomes hostile to anyone without divergent opinions.

    I am neither pro-life nor pro-abortion in this argument. I make these comments only to raise questions about nature of the talk and its ensuing “free speech” rhetoric.

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