HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, January 18, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Saint Mary’s University philosophy professor Mark Mercer said the Students’ Association was wrong to order the removal of the pro-life club’s “Women Do Regret Abortion” sign because some students were offended.
On November 30, 2010, pro-life students at St. Mary’s University (SMU) manning an authorized display on campus were ordered by Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association (SMUSA) President Matt Anderson to remove the sign. Some students who were offended by the sign had complained to SMUSA.
Earlier this month, Dr. Mark Mercer, an abortion advocate, stated in an op-ed article entitled “Making Saint Mary’s safe for expression and discussion,” that in ordering the removal of the sign “Mr. Anderson wilfully interfered with the peaceful and orderly expression of claims and opinions.”
However, in a letter published this week in the campus newspaper, “The Journal,” Anderson defended his decision to order the disbanding of the pro-life display. He said that the sign violated the SMUSA mission statement, which is “To maximize the positive university experience for its students and provide assistance in overcoming any challenges they may face.”
The “key” reason Anderson stated for the removal of the sign was its word choice. The “absolutist statement” of the sign “Women Do Regret Abortion,” Anderson said, was “subjected to all students, even to ones that deemed it offensive.” Anderson pointed out that the sign did not read “Some Women Regret Abortion” and interpreted the sign to mean that all women who have had an abortion regret their decision. “If such an absolutist wasn’t presented the sign would have remained up,“ he said.
Mercer responded that “according to Anderson [the absolutist] claim is false as well as offensive and hurtful … But it doesn’t matter what the sign said … Mr. Anderson wilfully interfered with the peaceful and orderly expression of claims and opinions.”
The professor said that Anderson “expressed disdain” for and “interfered” in way of life of the university, in which the community examines issues and makes educated decisions. Mercer said that Anderson “mollycoddled” complaining students by simply removing what offended them rather than teaching them “how to deal properly with views that upset them.”
Mercer decried the silence of the university’s president, officials, and professors and called on the university to encourage students to change their constitution so that SMUSA officials no longer have the power to harm “campus culture.”
Prof. Mercer is not the only one who has expressed opposition to the SMUSA’s actions. James Urquhart, features editor for “The Journal,” published a piece on the initial removal of the sign and another responding to Anderson’s letter.
Though Urquhart himself claimed views contrary to the pro-life stance, he argued that the actions of the SMUSA “violated this group’s right to speak freely.”
“My argument is that if one wants to maximize the university experience for all students, then they should allow slogans such as the one being discussed to stay up.”
LifeSiteNews.com contacted Saint Mary’s University Pro-Life Club. Catherine Sanders of the pro-life club declined comment at this time.
LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from Saint Mary’s public affairs office for comment.
To contact the University:
Dr. J. Colin Dodds, President
McNally Main 118A
923 Robie Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3C3 Canada