-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Censorship at U of C: Your Help Needed
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 07:56:38 -0700
From: Stephanie Gray
This e-mail will give you information about an injustice facing pro-lifers that requires your help. Background and recommended action-steps are below:
The University of Calgary is once again attempting to censor the U of C Campus Pro-Life club by demanding its signs from the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP: a graphic exhibit which includes photographs of what abortion does to unborn babies) be turned inwards. Can you imagine them making this demand of animal rights activists or those who protest the genocide in Darfur?
There is an important principle of free expression on campus at stake here. Universities should not be allowed to censor controversial, unpopular or minority viewpoints. If the University of Calgary can censor GAP (on the basis of anonymous complaints from people claiming to be offended), this will have direct implications and consequences for all persons on university campuses throughout Canada (not to mention the state of free expression off-campus). And for pro-lifers, this threat to free speech is particularly troubling since the unborn already don't have a voice and we're trying to be a voice for them.
In spite of five prior GAP displays at the U of C which occurred without any violence or threats or disruptions, the University has demanded that Campus Pro-Life "turn the signs inwards" and has threatened the students with arrest and with sanctions for non-academic misconduct (including the possibility of suspension and expulsion!).
The University has also told the Calgary Police that GAP poses a threat of violence, which is untrue.
And, on October 20, Calgary Police held a meeting between the students and U of C (the Police in turn acting on a request from the University), at which eight (8!) senior police personnel (including Sergeants, Inspectors, heads of departments, etc.) were present, along with the University's general counsel and head of campus security. Behind closed doors, both the University and the Calgary Police threatened the students with arrest and fines if they did not give in to the University's censorship.
The students are courageously resisting the University's unreasonable (and unlawful) demands, and are prepared to suffer arrest, fines, expulsion, etc.
The GAP display will take place on the U of C campus this upcoming week on November 26 and 27 (Wednesday and Thursday).
Subject to physical interference from campus security and/or Calgary Police, the students will set up the GAP display as they have done previously, thereby risking arrest and other consequences.
I write to ask you to assist the club's president, Leah Hallman, and her fellow students, in the following ways: exposing this injustice; appealing to U of C to stop its censorship; and finding people who are willing to speak out publicly in support of the principle that all students (and all Canadians for that matter) should have the right to speak freely -- even if their viewpoint is considered offensive or "extreme" by some listeners. Popular viewpoints don't need protection. Unpopular viewpoints do.
These people who will stand in defense of the students don't have to be pro-life. They just have to be pro-free speech.
In terms of appealing to U of C to stop its censorship, a powerful way to do that is to affect the pocketbook. SO, here's some information for action: In light of U of C receiving the vast majority of its funding from taxpayers, it's outrageous that it now claims to be a "private" institution with an unrestricted right to censor views on campus with which it disagrees.
On its web site, the University boasts a budget of $878 million dollars. On the "donate" section of the university's web site, it states that it received $82 million in donations. Sounds like 90% of its funding comes from taxpayers.
Taxpayers should be outraged that the the University is disregarding the very reason why it receives our money in the first place: to be a forum where ALL views can be expressed peacefully, without censorship or other forms of intimidation (like the University threatening its own students with arrest for "trespassing" on the campus where they are entitled to be).
If you live in Alberta, call your MLA as soon as possible (before the display on Wednesday) and urge her/him to speak with the Minister responsible for universities (Doug Horner).
And a call to the U of C president Harvey Weingarten (403-220-5460 or an e-mail to email@example.com) would be very helpful for the cause of free speech at this hour. And please cc your e-mails to U of C vice president Roman Cooney: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, your MLA could (and should!) also place a call to President Weingarten.
Please go to the students' website to learn more: http://campusprolife.com and please pray for wisdom and courage for all involved.
Finally, it sure would be nice for the students if you could send them a note of encouragement, which you can e-mail to here: email@example.com
Peace be with you,
Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR)
5-8720 Macleod Trail SE
Calgary, AB, T2H 0M4
See it. Believe it. Change it. http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca