Thursday October 7, 2010
Carleton University Rep.: Pro-Life Students Arrested for Trespassing because of Content
By Patrick B. Craine
OTTAWA, Ontario, October 7, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While Carleton University said earlier this week that it had five pro-life students arrested mainly because they had set up a display in an area on campus that the university claimed was “not normally permitted” for displays, a university representative today told LifeSiteNews.com that the real issue was “the nature of the content.”
The students – four from Carleton and one from Queen’s University – were arrested around 9:00 a.m. Monday as they were preparing to set up the Genocide Awareness Project, which compares abortion to past atrocities through graphic imagery, in the university’s Tory Quad. They had been denied that central outdoor location and told to set it up in Porter Hall, a room the students described as out of the way.
Carleton’s director of communications Jason MacDonald told media Monday, in comments published by major media such as the National Post, that the group was denied the space because “student groups are not normally permitted use of the Quad for displays.” He stated that, “in addition,” there were concerns about the content of the group’s display.
Today, however, the student group issued a press release saying that Carleton was “misleading the public” by suggesting that the pro-life students were asking for special treatment in the use of the public area.
In the release, club president Ruth Lobo said she found it appalling the university would “mislead the public by making the arrest look like we violated university policy instead of what it really was: that Carleton censors opinions on campus thereby violating their own policy of academic freedom.”
When LifeSiteNews questioned MacDonald on his previous remarks, he admitted, “The real issue was the nature of the content.”
“Our goal was to balance the desire to allow the Carleton Lifeline group to exercise its right to free speech by offering them a room to set the GAP up in and a table in the galleria to make students aware of the exhibit and direct them to it should they desire to see it,” he added.
Club vice president James Shaw responded to MacDonald’s admission, saying that the group is “astonished that the university admitted to censorship. It is clear that it is censorship, and that it is because of the message that we were trying to give. This confirms a lot of things for us.”
“I question why they changed their story, and were misleading people that we weren’t allowed to book the space,” Shaw added.
In their press release, the students insisted that the Quad is listed as bookable space and has been used by student groups in the past. They pointed out, further, that the university at no point mentioned the space was not bookable during the two parties’ months-long negotiations over the event.
The students’ lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos, had written to the university yesterday, listing several occasions in the last few years when the Quad has been used by student groups, such as last month by The Goggles Project, a group promoting sustainability.
“Clearly, Tory Quad has been available for student booking in the past,” wrote Polizogopoulos. “We therefore request that you refrain from making misleading statements in future.”
In an initial letter to the students in August denying them the space, the university was clear that the issue was content. “While we wish to provide your group with an opportunity to express itself freely on this matter, we are also aware that The Genocide Awareness Project uses promotional materials which are disturbing and offensive to some,” wrote David Sterritt, the Head of Housing and Conference Services.
“It’s clear by their direct communication to us,” said Lobo, “that this is content-based discrimination. This censorship should concern everyone, regardless of one’s views on abortion.”
Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor
503 Tory Building
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
Tel: 613 520-3801
Fax: 613 520-4474
Email: [email protected]
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Five Canadian Pro-Life University Students Arrested for Setting up Display