By: Christian Andzel, University of Buffalo Students for Life
On Monday at UB, there was an absolutely terrific event focused on human rights and it was hosted by a club named Amnesty International which is a student run club on campus that focuses on human rights throughout the world. On Monday, students including myself participated in a ‘’global write-a-thon’’ where letters went to governments which currently hold political prisoners. The letters bring with them hope that the government will release the political prisoners. We wrote for people around the world to be given freedom. Political freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
Unfortunately a club who cares deeply about human rights for all human beings was in fact prohibited and barred from tabling with other clubs that deal with human rights. My club, UB Students for Life, whose mission is to advocate for men, women, children, and the pre-born , has been told several stories and excuses to why our one club was prohibited from participating in something we believe in so dearly. UB Students for Life promotes and advocates for people around the world in order that everyone on this planet is given life, liberty, and essential human rights that allow happiness. UB Students for Life has expressed views that pertain to these human rights, including torture, the death penalty, as well as prisoners of war or political oppression. The preceding is very important because one of the many inconsistent excuses I heard and received from e-board members of Amnesty International explaining their obstruction towards another human rights club from this human rights event was because they did not believe we supported the preceding views because of our ‘’image’’ on campus. Where were these Amnesty International e-board members when UB Students for Life talked about women’s rights, women’s education around the world, prisoners of war, as well as torture? That is right, they were never there. They used a blanketed stereotypical view to label our club and paint our club as having an ‘’image’’ problem because they see us only dealing with one issue, abortion, which is far from the truth. Having been highly active in over seven clubs in my two and a half years here at UB, I can tell you with great confidence that every club has certain issues they care strongly about. Distinctly, I remember a club that felt strongly for community service, one for a relationship with God, one for dancing, one on culture, and the list goes on. Sure UB Students for Life is a ‘’pro-life’’ club when dealing with the pre-born, but if someone actually knew about our club and did not blanket us with stereotypes and discriminate on what we believe, then they would know that UB Students for life believes being ‘’pro-life’’ is knowing that everyone, from the political prisoner to the girl in sex slavery, deserves human rights and protections.
It is a downright shame that the host club, Amnesty International, would put one issue, that is not even relevant nor would it have been relevant during the event, over that of which the entire day was built upon, and that is voicing as one group, built of many different clubs and beliefs coming together advocating for the rights of political thought and freedom of speech/ expression. More excuses of why UB Students for Life was barred from tabling with other clubs in the name of freedom was because one A.I. e-board member said they did not want political clubs involved. Students for Life is not a political club at all because even though we stand firm against issues such as the death penalty, abortion, and forced imprisonment, these issues can be politicized. You cannot take issues such as those and blame it on the entire club and thus bar a club from advocating in the name of freedom for all around the world. Back and forth they came with another possible reason of why we were to be prohibited and to me it seemed like a ping pong game of back and forth with the ball being the illegitimate reasons.
I for one and I hope you reading, would agree that if you created a club and were very proud of it and all of the accomplishments, that you would never stand for such manipulation upon what you and your club believe in. I find it extremely sad that a group of students who want to fight for human rights and in this case specifically, political prisoners, would in fact play politics themselves and drive a wedge in between two clubs who ideologically fight for human rights. They drove a wedge by using one issue. Because of one issue that the two clubs differ on and are on ‘’opposite’’ sides of the issue, the president of Amnesty International said, one club’s freedom of speech and expression on an entirely different issue, advocating for the release of political prisoners, is suppressed. Amnesty International’s eboard put politics above coming together as clubs that want to advocate for those being oppressed due to violations of human rights. Haven’t people had enough with politics already and the divisiveness it causes? Why fight so hard for something you believe in, yet at the same time prohibit another club from doing the same thing just because you may disagree with them on one entirely non relevant issue? Are not the political prisoners throughout the world better than that of petty arguments of an ideological disagreement? According to Amnesty International, no. Every club should be focused on the specific issue on that specific event and nothing else. UB Students for Life would have not been any exception. Lastly, I will share with you a word that sums up this entire situation: hypocrisy.
You may ask, why hypocrisy? On Monday we, and I say we, because I did not let individuals bigotries deter me from fighting for human rights around the world, wrote letters to governments advocating for the release of political prisoners and for human rights in general because we as human rights defenders, myself and I hope those in Amnesty International, believe strongly in freedom of speech and expression. I ask for them to look at their latest actions in dealing with Students for Life which is a club that believes and advocates for the same things as they do because I know, as do others throughout this university that now have heard this very disappointing story, how their principal of freedom of expression and speech is in fact a paradox. How can we ever be legitimate human rights defenders when we cannot even protect the fundamental liberties of freedom of speech and expression here in the confines of our university? How can a club, so determined to instill these basic and essential freedoms throughout the globe, at the same time silence and prohibit an entire club from tabling and advocating those same rights because of excuses that are not consistent with the truths of my club? Did this really happen over one issue of disagreement, or because of ‘’image’’, or because of a false assertion of being a political club? This in its entirety is hypocritical, deplorable, and unconscionable while advocating at the exact same time for freedom of speech and expression for others, while failing to be ethically consistent when dealing with peers at their own university.