Analysis

University of Calgary pro-lifers win free speech battle

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Four years after being found guilty of misconduct for refusing to take down their pro-life display, seven students at the University of Calgary have won their appeal.

Seven students tried to appeal being found guilty of non-academic misconduct in 2010, but the board of governors refused to hold a hearing…In April, a judge ordered the board to hear the appeal. He said the university’s original decision was unreasonable and lacking justification.

The Justice Centre for Academic Freedoms said Wednesday that the board of governors allowed the appeal, quashed the charges of non-academic misconduct and removed them from the students’ files.

The display was part of the Genocide Awareness Project, which positions uncensored images of aborted human fetuses next to photos of historical human rights atrocities, including the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. Provocative? Yes. Criminal? No–not to anyone who believes in the most basic free speech rights.

Keep in mind that this took place on a college campus where few, if any, ideas are supposed to be off-limits. Leftists on campus have defended everything from Prof. Ward Churchill calling 9/11 victims “Little Eichmanns” to campus sadomasochism clubs on free speech grounds.  Anti-abortion speech, however, is considered so obscene that they’re willing to carve out an exception and ban it. University of Calgary officials “demanded the group turn its display inward so passing students wouldn’t have to look at it.” When they refused, they were found guilty of “misconduct.”

I’m trying to comprehend the mental gymnastics involved here. On one hand, abortion supporters argue that abortion is a benign, quick, and harmless procedure that removes “uterine contents”; it is simply no big deal. On the other, they believe that pictures of the end result are too traumatizing for college students to look at. Well, which is it?

In any case, the board came to the right conclusion. Holding an opinion that may be unpopular with some on a college campus is not a crime, and students who dare to disagree with their professors and classmates shouldn’t be slapped with a “misconduct” charge that will forever remain on their academic records. Let’s hope that other universities get the message, loud and clear.

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