Kentucky Literature Prof Removed for Vandalizing Pro-life Display
by Hilary White
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KY, April 18, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Sally Jacobsen, a professor of language and literature at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) has been dismissed from her post after she incited a group of students to destroy an approved pro-life display erected by a campus pro-life student group.
Jacobsen, who also headed the NKU women’s studies program for three years, told the Kentucky Enquirer she had become so emotional at the sight of a field of white crosses planted as a symbolic cemetery for aborted children, that her strong feelings justified her action.
“Any violence perpetrated against that silly display was minor compared to how I felt when I saw it. Some of my students felt the same way, just outraged,” Jacobsen said.
Pulling up the crosses was similar to citizens taking down Nazi displays on Fountain Square, she said.
The display was put up in response to a series of lectures on abortion “rights” by a faculty group called, Educators for Reproductive Freedom. The group had held two lunchtime discussions on campus with speakers from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. A representative of Educators for Reproductive Freedom disavowed any involvement in Jacobsen’s action.
In response to the faculty lectures, a group of students hastily organized a pro-life group, Northern Right to Life, which was approved by the university administration. The crosses, which were first erected Wednesday April 12, were the group’s first effort at educating the campus on the real nature of abortion. They also handed out literature at the pro-abortion faculty event.
Katie Walker, president of Northern Right to Life, told the Enquirer that her group would like to see charges filed against those responsible for the vandalism. “Campuses are supposed to be public forums. I think professors should encourage that,” Walker said.
Jacobsen admitted to inciting students: “I did, outside of class during the break, invite students to express their freedom-of-speech rights to destroy the display if they wished to.” She said the crosses were a “slap in the face” to women who might be making “the agonizing and very private decision to have an abortion.”
A photo appearing Thursday in the online edition of the campus newspaper, The Northerner, showed Jacobsen tearing up the sign that accompanied the crosses. Campus police are investigating the vandalism, saying that $600.00 in damages was done. About 10 students were involved, witnesses said.
The university’s policies state that even tenured faculty can be dismissed without pay for misconduct. It reads, “A staff member who conducts himself in a manner that reflects unfavourably upon the University, the department, and himself will be subject to immediate discharge, without advance notice and without further pay.”
Jacobsen’s action has created a stir in high places. The Enquirer reported Sunday that Rep. Paul Marcotte, R-Union, has written to NKU president, James Votruba, demanding that Jacobsen be fired. “I don’t want my tax money used by a professor to radicalize the ‘cemetery Gestapo,’” Marcotte wrote. He called her action “illegal and irresponsible” and “disgusting, offensive behaviour by a tenured professor.”
“Strong punishment will send a message to other unrepentant radicals that the university is part of a larger community and that its members must abide by the community’s laws,” Marcotte stated.
James Votruba has said the university will be investigating and takes its commitment to freedom of speech seriously.Â“I don’t know if she was pulling up the crosses, but I think she was out there with the students. If so, as far as I’m concerned, she went outside the conditions of her employment,” Votruba said.
In a statement published on the university’s website today, Votruba said, “While the University supports the right to free speech and vigorous debate on public issues, we cannot condone infringement of the rights of others to express themselves in an orderly manner.”
“By leading her students in the destruction of an approved student organization display, Professor Sally Jacobsen’s actions were inconsistent with Northern Kentucky University’s commitment to free and open debate and the opportunity for all sides to be heard without threat of censorship or reprisal.”Â