UNIVERSITY DENIES HEARING FOR PRO-LIFE STUDENTS
CALGARY – The University of Calgary upheld an earlier decision finding eight of its students, who set up a controversial pro-life display on campus in April 2010, guilty of “non-academic misconduct”. A five-person Appeal Board wrote to each member of Campus Pro-Life indicating that they will not conduct a hearing, and that the Appeal Board affirms the “guilty” verdict imposed in May 2010 by Vice-Provost Meghan Houghton.
“We are astonished that they will not even give us a hearing with the Appeal Board to present our case,” stated Alanna Campbell, CPL President.
In April, after setting up the pro-life display on their campus for the ninth time since 2006, members of the group received notification that they were being charged with a ‘Major Violation’ under Section 4.10 of the University of Calgary’s Non-Academic Misconduct Policy for “failure to comply with a Campus Security officer or University official in legitimate pursuit of his/her duties” by refusing to turn their display inward. Other major violations in this category include sexual assault, the use of explosives and firearms, and selling illegal drugs.
“The letters from the Appeal Board do not say who was actually on the Appeal Board or even when they met. It demonstrates the same top-down, unaccountable, closed doors approach that we’ve been dealing with for years,” said Peter Csillag, CPL’s Vice President (internal).
The group has displayed its Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) on University of Calgary grounds, without incident, eight times since 2006. The display compares abortion to past historical atrocities, such as the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. In 2006 and 2007, during the first four Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) campus displays, the University defended the students’ right to expression under the Charter, but in 2008 the University reversed its policy without explanation.
In 2009, the University charged six students with trespassing in relation to the display, but the Crown Prosecutor stayed these charges prior to a trial scheduled for November of 2009. Since then, members of Campus Pro-Life have been threatened with Non-Academic Misconduct upon each display, but only now has the University carried out its threats. The recent guilty verdict was “a formal written warning” that if the students “fail to comply with directives of Campus Security staff in the future” it will “result in more severe sanctions,” wrote Acting Associate Vice-Provost Meghan Houghton, who was the sole decision-maker in the guilty verdict. More severe sanctions can include the possibility of expulsion.
“This is simply viewpoint discrimination and has no place in any institution committed to higher education,” said Cristina Perri, CPL’s Secretary.