SYDNEY, Australia, June 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The board of the student union at the oldest university in Australia has voted 6-5 to approve the only pro-life student society in Australia.
The decision has been met with outrage by stunned pro-abortion students (one of whom described the pro-life society as “f***ed” and “bulls***”), who have begun organising events, petitions and constitutional amendments which would ban pro-life groups from ever again gaining approval at the university.
Yesterday, Friday June 1, the board of the University of Sydney Union (USU) approved the registration of LifeChoice Sydney, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian pro-life advocacy group which aims to “promote the dignity of human life from conception to natural death” at Sydney University.
The Ukulele society was also approved at the same meeting.
Outraged students have begun composing a motion calling for the USU board to rescind the registration of LifeChoice, censure the board members who voted in favour of their registration, and amend the USU constitution to read:
“The Board shall be forbidden from registering or providing any funding, resources, publicity or use of Union premises to a group discriminatory on the basis of sex, sexuality, gender diversity, class, race and ethnicity or disability, including any group which opposes a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.”
Meanwhile, an online petition has been created on the website of activist group GetUp!, demanding that the USU overturn its decision to approve the group. “This isn’t about freedom of speech or equal opportunity,” the petition reads. “This is about funding and giving legitimacy to a group whose sole target is women. This ‘LifeChoice’ Society is an attack on women’s rights and by allowing its formation the Union is failing its students and undermining the inclusiveness it seeks to promote.”
GetUp! has previously removed a user-suggested campaign titled “Human rights for Unborn children”, though it was ranked third out of 446 campaign ideas on its website.
The decision to approve clubs at Sydney University is usually made uncontroversially by the Clubs and Societies (C&S) committee, who then pass their decision on to the USU board for ‘rubber-stamping’.
In May, the committee advised the board to reject LifeChoice Sydney, citing a C&S regulation which states: “The object of the [clubs and societies] program shall be to enrich the student experience at the university.”
Pointing out yesterday the lack of evidence behind this assertion, and recommending a motion to grant club status to LifeChoice and the Ukulele Society, USU Board Director Mina Nada argued: “A diverse union is a healthy union. My fellow directors, I implore you to make a decision which honours the Union’s 138 year old traditions of free expression, free thought and open inquiry. Traditions of which we today are guardians.”
The board meeting lasted nearly three hours, during which time it was suggested that the focus of the LifeChoice club was too narrow, and that perhaps its constitution could be amended to make it both a ‘pro-choice’ and pro-life society.
When the vote was first taken, the count was 5-5. The deciding vote came from the Chairwoman of the meeting, Sibella Matthews.
LifeChoice Sydney president, 20-year-old arts student Rebecca Elias, said: “We started off just a couple students, various small meetings in study rooms around campus. Even if the Union board didn’t personally approve us, the way the students have rallied in the last few days to support the cause shows that our society is very much alive and kicking.”
Ron, a 21-year-old law student who is a member of the LifeChoice society said: “I am so happy that LifeChoice became an official society on campus! Watching the union debate the matter was like watching a thriller…. When we came out, we had one massive group hug and I gave Rebecca a huge hug. I was so proud of her. The tide is turning! Future leaders of society come from great universities like USYD [Sydney University] and if we can just light a pro-life spark in some of them then that day when we finally abolish abortion will come that much closer. I cannot wait!”
There are over 200 clubs and societies at the University of Sydney, including, among others, the Lego Society, the Captain Planet Appreciation Society, and the Rubiks Cube and other Puzzles Appreciation Society, and the Suspense and Mystery Society.
In August 2006, roughly 15 police and security guards were needed to protect a small crowd of students at Sydney University attending a guest lecture by Mississippi pro-lifer Terri Herring, when a coalition of roughly 80 protestors attempted to disrupt the event.