Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion and Free Speech

Last month, someone trampled anti-abortion crosses on Newman Center grounds. (The Newman Center is the Catholic meeting place on campus, just as Hillel is a meeting place for Jewish students.)

A young zoology major, Elizabeth Hensley, constructed the subdued anti-abortion display. Hensley protested the destruction in the Daily Egyptian and was vigorously attacked online by the "free speech for me, but not for thee" crowd. You see, Hensley provoked "understandable outrage," etc. Their reaction was reminiscent of that phrase "blaming the victim."

Others came to Hensley's defense--online--but the silence from the administration was deafening compared to its overreactions in other instances. Examples: the Marc Torney case (where the entire campus came justifiably to Torney's free speech defense). Or the single "anti-feminist" email that resulted in immediate action by the chancellor's office (suspension of email, Judicial Affair charges, and more--read below). Then there was the rush to praise "diversity" when black suspects mugged a white person. A great teachable moment about law and order on campus -- and it became more gruel for prattling the mantra of diversity. Clearly, the campus pooh-bahs will defend some more vigorously than others.

One can imagine the reaction if some person violated Muslim or Jewish property on campus, much less a Black History display. We would hear that "Klan thinking" is just below the surface of our serene campus. Chancellor Goldman would take out a half-page advertisment in the Daily Egyptian (as he did last year when a student emailed a drunken rant about feminists to an off-campus web site editor). Student Judicial Affairs would go into action, and if the SIU Police located the culprit, the full force of the Student Conduct Code would come swiftly down upon him or her.
***Historical note: The last great flowering of the Ku Klux Klan in southern Illinois violently targeted Catholics and led to the destruction of a Catholic hospital in Herrin. Better dead than alive by Catholic hands was the thinking.***
Yesterday, there was a far more explicit anti-abortion display on campus. With SIU Police watching, there was no destruction of property. Later that night a debate followed between pro-choice and pro-life speakers. So, what began as an ugly trampling of free speech, ended in vigorous debate over an issue that isn't going away.

Tonight there is another campus debate dealing with pornography. Last week, we had a high-level debate on the merits of a state constitutional convention. Add the ACLU/Law School debate over the Student Conduct Code.

Kudos to the sponsors of these debates. Let them continue.

4 comments:

Old Man Winter said...

As a pro-choice, left-leaning, Obama voting (already have), Christian, I find the destruction of free speech apalling. I find it even worse that the "liberalists" at SIUC would, via their silence, condone such a brazen violation of the very rights they claim to cherish. "Liberalists," incidentally is my adaptation of "Christianists" as used by Digby, a left-wing blogger whose work is occasionally sent my way. Her attitude is that Christian proclamation has been hijacked by those claiming to follow its precepts, but act--in my words, not hers--like the Romans who persecuted a good many of them. "Liberalists," hence, is my sense of those who claim to espouse left-wing politcs, but whose actions and attitudes toward those who disagree with their premises, arguments and conclusions are not simply wrong, but immoral, unjust, racist, sexist, homphobic, elitist, harassers who more or less need to have their mental steadiness examined. From what took place at the Newman Center (or with Professor Meyers or with Professor Simon or with on and on and on ad nauseum and infinitum), I'm wondering where we as a University have reason to call ourselves everything but, well, I'll be polite.

sthorne said...

"Roundly flamed"? Are there posts about this someplace else than the original letter you linked to? Of the 27 responses to the letter currently one, the first, could be construed as a "free speech for me, not for thee" type. There are two or three "Who cares?" posts and everyone else either supported the display or at least the rights of the person who put it up to do so. Hardly roundly flamed.

i-History said...

See copyedit and the added paragraph -- it's all about what is said and not said. A pattern of setting the boundaries of free speech on campus. Here is the paragraph (now added to the original post).

"Others came to Hensley's defense--online--but the silence from the administration was deafening compared to its overreactions in other instances. Examples: the Marc Torney case (where the entire campus came justifiably to Torney's free speech defense). Or the single "anti-feminist" email that resulted in immediate action by the chancellor's office (suspension of email, Judicial Affair charges, and more--read below). Then there was the rush to praise "diversity" when black suspects mugged a white person. A great teachable moment about law and order on campus -- and it became more gruel for prattling the mantra of diversity. Clearly, the campus pooh-bahs will defend some more vigorously than others.

Anonymous said...

Monday and Tuesday's anti-abortion demonstration on campus had some screaming from the roof-tops that this sort of presentation should be banned from campus. The ACLU - First Amendment freedom fighters are strangely silent. Why? Are they too busy worrying about the student conduct code? Too busy reading The Fire's website? I suppose they would have to swallow pretty hard to, Number one - defend the university, and, Number two - defend speech they don't really like. That, my friends, is disgusting.