UPDATE, 11/19/18: Rachel Burgess, president of Protect Life at Siena Heights University, wrote to Live Action News in an email to clarify some matters:
However, what school administrators said would be a two- to five-week registration process this fall has turned into ten weeks, and the school sent an email censoring the group, allowing them to hold meetings, but not events or activities on campus. Protect Life at Albion president, Madison Bowen, and vice-president, Gabriella Resnick, say after the ten-week period, they will not wait any longer to share their message on campus.
In a letter to school administrators shared with Live Action News, Bowen and Resnick wrote, “We are eager to become an official group on campus and believe we have been patient and followed all guidelines throughout.” They have submitted Protect Life at Albion’s roster, constitution, and bylaws multiple times, and continually followed up with school administrators, only to receive little to no response.
Bowen and Resnick wrote, “Albion College prides itself in being a school that values diversity and has a focus on learning from one another.” They see the delayed registration as evidence of potential suppression, writing,
There is so much diversity amongst the student organizations on campus: LGBriTS, Power, College Democrats, College Republicans, Environmental Club, Campus Crusade for Christ, and so many others. We only want to add to this diversity, which the school upholds as an important value, through the sharing of our message.
The pro-life students at Albion College are far from alone in facing suppression. Christen Pollo, executive director of Protect Life Michigan, told Live Action she has seen many examples of pro-life student groups facing suppression at Michigan schools. Two examples come from pro-life groups at Siena Heights University and Spring Arbor University. The groups recently held pro-life events on campus at which students’ speech was censored.
On October 29, students in Protect Life at Siena Heights University chalked life-affirming messages on campus sidewalks, only to have school administrators demand they erase any messages that pertained to abortion. The club’s president, Rachel Burgess, and vice-president, Rees Nemeth, wrote to the administration later that week, saying, “When we were censored by being asked to wash our pro-life chalk messages off the sidewalk on Monday, we were surprised and disappointed.”
They explained, “We did and do still feel that all messages were appropriate, peaceful, and shared in love.” In the letter to administrators, which was shared with Live Action News, Burgess and Nemeth explained that, while the group supports many pro-life causes, they are particularly focused on abortion, an issue that affects college students. The school administration’s attempt to censor any chalked messages about abortion prevents the group from sharing the messages that make their group distinctive. They wrote:
There is a diverse group of student organizations at SHU, including BuildOn, Green Light, the Paranormal Research Team, and Pride. Many of these groups are comprised of students with opposing beliefs. However, they are all allowed to openly share their message with campus. We only ask for the same treatment. It is only fair to treat all groups equally, no matter their message and who it might offend. Those with more controversial messages ought not to have their messages censored.
For the pro-life students at Spring Arbor University, they were not the only group to be censored. In a Facebook post for the group, Emily Dimmick wrote that students with Protect Life SAU, like pro-life students at Siena Heights University, chalked campus side-walks with life-affirming messages, including “Pro-Life, Pro-Love, Pro-Women”; “Adoption > Abortion”; “We Love ALL Life”; and “Recognize the Preciousness of ALL Life”. Dimmick wrote, “This morning, we awoke to Pro-Choice messages alongside ours, and soon after the sidewalks were power washed clean, a choice made by administration to avoid any serious conflicts.”
In an email to Live Action, Dimmick explained, “We are disappointed that the washing also stunted conversation, which was our real goal. We do not feel that we have been censored, so much as the entire discussion of Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice has been ignored on our campus.”
College campuses often strongly favor pro-abortion views and sometimes outright suppress pro-life groups. Groups like Queens College Students for Life have filed lawsuits for viewpoint discrimination. What is perhaps most surprising in the recent instances in Michigan is that all three examples came from private universities.
Abortion affects college students, which is why pro-life groups believe that support pregnant and parenting students and speaking the truth about abortion on campus are important. In order to accomplish this, however, pro-life student groups need to be able to share their message freely, as school-sanctioned organizations.