Conflict On Campus

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

April 7, 2009 Ed Cartoon

On Thursday students walking through the University Community Centre atrium were met with a pro-life demonstration organized by Western Lifeline.

Speakers with the group held signs reading “I regret my lost fatherhood” and “I regret my abortion.” While controversial and uncomfortable for some, the signs no doubt sparked thought in the minds of most passersby.

This year students’ councils at several other Canadian universities refused to ratify pro-life clubs. Western’s University Students’ Council’s decision to not only ratify but also allow a pro-life group to demonstrate on campus shows its dedication to free speech.

Overall, the display did not go out of its way to offend and while it is impossible to ensure no one is made to be uncomfortable when discussing such a controversial issue, Western Lifeline certainly attempted to create an open and respectful atmosphere.

A dissenting voice was also present on Thursday " student representatives of the pro-choice movement were scattered throughout the atrium and wore patches over their mouths in silent protest.

This counter-demonstration sparked some debate over whether other groups should be permitted to protest without going through the same booking requirements the original demonstrators fulfilled.

Perhaps, as a solution, the USC should consider formally representing both sides equally when dealing with such contentious issues. Whenever a club books a display that will likely be controversial, the USC could contact the representatives of any opposing viewpoints and offer them space for a demonstration on the same date.

After all, the representation of both viewpoints would only bring more publicity to a demonstration. Additionally, by presenting both sides of an issue, a demonstration would create a more inviting atmosphere of dialogue and discussion and would be more likely to draw all students.

However, it could be difficult for the USC to decide when an issue is controversial enough to represent both sides. Furthermore, while the intention might be to extend the opportunity for free speech, the USC would actually be censoring its students by allowing only demonstrations when both sides are presented.

As long as the event date is made public information well in advance, there should be no need to formally organize controversial demonstrations in order to represent both sides. After all, the UCC is a student space, and any individual students or groups should be allowed to voice their responses to a display in the atrium as long as they are respectful.

While no portrayal of a contentious issue could ever please everyone, the fact the displays promoted thought and dialogue is a reassuring reminder of the maturity of Western students.

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