May 10th, 2010:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U OF C FINDS PRO-LIFE STUDENTS GUILTY AFTER CLOSED-DOOR HEARINGS, VOWS “MORE SEVERE SANCTIONS” FOR FUTURE PRO-LIFE ACTIVITIES
CALGARY – The University of Calgary has notified eight members of the Campus Pro-Life (CPL) student group that they have been found guilty of a major violation under the Non-Academic Misconduct Policy regarding a pro-life display held last month. The verdict comes one week after the students each attended individual, closed-door hearings with an Associate Vice-Provost during which legal representatives were disallowed.
The verdict is “a formal written warning” that if the students “fail to comply with directives of Campus Security staff in the future” it will “result in more severe sanctions,” said Acting Associate Vice-Provost Meghan Houghton, who was the sole decision-maker in the guilty verdict.
“We are going to challenge this verdict,” stated Alanna Campbell, CPL President. “We did not break a single University bylaw or regulation and so we will defend ourselves accordingly. We will also not cease exercising our rights to free speech just because they’re threatening us. I’d rather be expelled as a principled person than graduate a coward.”
Last month, after having set up a pro-life display on campus for the ninth time since 2006, members of the group were notified that they were being charged with a ‘Major Violation’ under Section 4.10 of the University of Calgary’s Non-Academic Misconduct Policy for “failure to comply with a Campus Security officer or University official in legitimate pursuit of his/her duties” when asked to turn their signs inward or leave campus.
In Houghton’s decision, she referenced the university’s demand that the students failed to comply with: “Signs that welcomed viewers and signs that identified your group as an anti-abortion display could remain outward facing but signs with the actual content of your display must face away from walkways. or any other areas in which persons on campus would have little choice but to look at your display.”
“That’s blatant content-based discrimination,” said Peter Csillag, CPL Vice-President (Internal). “Why weren’t abortion advocates, or Falun Gong supporters, forced to place their messages inwards when they protested on campus? You can’t have debate if everyone is pointed inwards on themselves. As far as I’m concerned, this verdict against us pro-lifers is not legitimate, and it reveals U of C to be an institute of censorship and double standards-not of higher learning.”
In 2006 and 2007, during the first four displays of the Genocide Awareness Project(GAP) on campus, the University defended the students’ right to expression under the Charter, but in 2008 the University reversed its policy without explanation.
“This recent hearing and result is just another step in a long history of intimidation and censorship and if they think we’ll step down as the result of it then they’re sorely mistaken,” stated Cameron Wilson, CPL Vice-President (External).
The group’s pro-life display, called the Genocide Awareness Project, has been held on the University of Calgary grounds without incident nine times since 2006. The display compares abortion to past historical atrocities, such as the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. In 2009, the University charged six students with trespassing in relation to the display, but the Crown Prosecutor stayed these charges prior to a trial scheduled for November of 2009. Since then, members of Campus Pro-Life have been threatened with Non-Academic Misconduct upon each display, but only now has the University carried out its threats, beginning with this formal warning.
“We’ve been informed that there are a lot of possible punishments involved, ranging from warnings to expulsion,” stated Cristina Perri, CPL Secretary. “There’s nothing they can do to us individually that compares to what hundreds of unborn children encounter each day in our country.”