GUEST POST: Those who recognize the truth that abortion is the slaughter of the innocent and vulnerable and that all life deserves protection understand the obligation to stand in resistance. This is why my friends and I began the process of starting a Students for Life of America (SFLA) group at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in the fall of 2021. To our surprise, we did not know our free speech would be met with resistance from our school administration.
When we sent our first group proposal in Fall 2021, it was returned quickly and contained comments from the NJIT Student Senate (the student-led organization responsible for approving and managing groups). While many of these comments seemed unreasonable, we responded to each concern in a follow up submission — yet, we were rejected for a second time for similar reasons. We took the following semester to write a third, comprehensive club constitution and proposal that left no room for possible caveats. Once again, after a long waiting period, we were rejected.
Despite the long hours spent alongside our regular college schedules, we were getting nowhere.
One criticism was that our group was not unique. We were told early on that the “Science and Politics Society” already existed and that we could have discussions about our views there. We were also told the “Murray Center for Women in Technology” was working on providing more resources to pregnant and parenting students.
How would our SFLA group be different and add to campus culture?
First, we found that the Murray Center could not inform us on any initiatives they had for pregnant and parenting students, and second, we found that the Science and Politics Society had gone dormant.
Even if the latter had been active as the NJIT Student Senate claimed, the Science and Politics Society is a place where students are encouraged to debate topics and not work together for the purpose of defending life through service.
Neither club was actually active.
The hypocrisy of NJIT bureaucracies was quickly exposed when just weeks after our first rejection, an email was sent out to the whole university inviting students “passionate about health care equity and protecting reproductive rights” to a Planned Parenthood prospective club event. If judged with the same criteria as us, this event should simply have operated within the scope of the Science and Politics Society.
Moreover, as a prospective group, they were not required to submit a list of 10 interested members to host an event as we were required. Even with our consistent interested members list, we did not have a similar opportunity and observed a clear violation of our right to free speech.
Another concern raised was that our group would foster division on campus due to abortion being a sensitive topic. We took their concern charitably and made it clear on follow-up submission documents the steps we would take to encourage peaceful discussion. We also clarified that our priority would be service to the NJIT community.
Examples of service opportunities would include partnering with the campus food pantry to create diaper drives, advocating for special parking for parenting students, and providing informational and referral resources for life-affirming organizations.
These past two years have been long and tiresome.
Many of those who have helped carry the torch for this group have graduated and moved away. Even so, several new, passionate people have joined, and we are confident that the movement will live on despite the resistance. Some students even formed a prayer group that has been praying for the official formation.
We were told after our first Student Senate rejection that there is no formal criteria for club approval. It is clear that some higher power at NJIT is at work against us stretching out the approval process in the hopes our movement will die organically.
The obscurity of this process has kept us in the shadows for too long, and we cannot allow this mess to continue. Our group is now working with SFLA legal counsel to win back the constitutional right to free speech that has been stripped from us three times over.
A demand letter has been sent to the school; stay tuned to the SFLA blog to see what ensues.
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