written by: Morgan Getts, SFLA’s Ohio Regional Coordinator
By now I am sure you have heard and or seen, that Students for Life of America Regional Coordinators and Directors, are traveling to over 90 different college campuses with a jumbotron about the size of your family car. If you haven’t been keeping up with our Stop the Violence display, I would encourage you to check out Students for Life of America’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. There you will find awesome testimonies from students, and some pretty neat pictures.
Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to take the Jumbotron (with the help of Jimmy, “the jumbotron guy”), to Cleveland State University in Ohio, and Westminster College in Pennsylvania. Here are some things I noticed: (1) Administration will do and say just about anything to challenge your right to be there. (2) Students, no matter their preconceived views, are taking the time to watch Dr. Levantino’s video that describes abortion procedures starting at the first trimester, and ending in the third trimester.
First, it is clear that administration has not taken the time to learn their own school’s free speech policy. Before bringing the jumbotron to Cleveland State University, I made sure to check their free speech policy, I wanted to comply as best as I could. To my surprise, Cleveland State was ranked as a “Green Light University” by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Which means, they have policies that, “nominally protect free speech.” This is what Cleveland State’s Expressive Activity Policy states:
- General Access
(a) Any person or group may use, without prior notification, any publicly accessible outdoor area of the university’s campus except parking lots, garages and driveways. Federal, state and local laws will be enforced as applicable. The use of walkways or other common areas may not block the free passage of others or impede the regular operation of the university. (b) Use of the general access areas may include speaking, non-verbal expression, distributing literature, displaying signage and circulating petitions. There is no limit to the number of times a month a person or group may access those areas.
We set up in a public area, just off the street, right across from the Student Union. The Grounds-man was the first to tell us that we needed a permit to be there. As you can see, the policy above is clear, we did not need “prior notification,” and that is what we told him. Next, Cleveland State’s Campus Police approached us, and again asked to see our permit. I explained that according to the CSU’s Expressive Activity Policy, we did not. He read over it, and said, “Yes, it looks like you are within bounds of our policy. As far as I am concerned you should be good to go.” Finally, we had a visit from the man in charge of conferences and events at CSU. I was having a conversation with a student, so I am not exactly sure what all was said. But, from what I was told he continuously changed his story as to why we were not allowed to be there. He settled on having us move the jumbotron off the lawn and onto the gravel inches away, and we were happy to comply. The point of this being, that as pro-life activist and students, we must be aware of our school’s policy, and hold administration accountable. Otherwise, our voice would be discriminated against without us even knowing it.
We should look to Michael, the President of Westminster’s Students for Life group as an example of this. Westminster College’s administration shut our Stop the Violence Display down the first time we brought it. There were many reasons mentioned as to why, but among them were that our display was too controversial. Michael stepped up, and refused to let his administration walk on his right to free speech. He set up meetings, and wrote letters to ensure that we could bring the display back… and we did just that.
Second, students, no matter their preconceived views, are taking the time to watch Dr. Levantino’s video on the jumbotron. The jumbotron is big, as its name would suggest. But, you can also see what’s playing from across campus! What does this mean? That even students who are not willing to approach our display and have a conversation, ARE WATCHING IT. While on Westminster’s campus, we saw students across the courtyard stop and watch the jumbotron, we even saw them whip out their phones and take pictures of it.
All in all, we know that the jumbotron is helping start conversations on campus. After our display at Cleveland State University, an email was sent out to students that touched on how important it is to protect free speech, even if we do not necessarily agree with it. And Westminster College’s Student Newspaper published an article about the jumbotron and display. Students are talking, information is being spread, and minds are being changed all thanks to the jumbotron and student groups willing to engage in conversations on their campuses.