On Campus

This week’s controversies brought to you by the letter C

First Carleton, next Calgary.

Later today, pro-life/anti-abortion at the University of Calgary are planning to display graphic photos of abortion at the University of Calgary.

The university is promising to arrest the students if they do so. The university proudly states the fact that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to universities and they have the right to remove students from the campus if they deem their protest to be trespassing on university grounds.

I wonder how administrators would feel if the government decided to close a department in the Faculty of Arts? I bet they would scream ACADEMIC FREEDOM!

I’m no fan of the genocide awareness project and can see why many people do not wish to see the pictures, but the freedom to only say things people want to hear is no freedom at all.

Rob Breakenridge’s column in the Calgary Herald is the best written piece on this subject in a long time:

The display features images of aborted fetuses, and the university is firm in its demand the display be turned inward so as to safeguard the sensibilities of passersby–a compromise, as the university sees it.

But rather than get caught up in the arms race of political correctness, theUofChas an opportunity to prove universities remain a haven for vigorous –even polemical–debate.

An unfortunate addition to this controversy, though, is a capacious amount of hypocrisy. It seems quite likely that a more politically palatable organization would encounter much less resistance.

I doubt a display on domestic violence would be shunned if it included images of battered women. I’m sure animal rights groups are free to show images of animal testing and I don’t think an antiwar group would be forced to conceal images of prisoner abuse.

There are times when troubling images can or even should be used to make a point –who gets to decide which are appropriate?

As for the Campus Pro-Life group, while its members and supporters are highly attuned at the moment to the importance of freedom of expression, how lasting is that appreciation?

While others are rightly being asked to put their beliefs aside for principle, how willing will pro-lifers and social conservatives be to return the favour? If a campus group proposed a display on the history of gay erotica, would those social conservatives in the pro-life camp be as eager to see such images?

We’ll wait and see what happens later today.

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