Ben Johnson


Professors: Pro-life students “appear to have a lot in common with those who supported lynching”

Ben Johnson

BUFFALO, NY, April 18, 2013 ( – Idealistic young men and women at the University at Buffalo may have dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn, but according to some of their professors, they are similar to Americans “who supported lynching.”

Six history professors swiftly condemned the campus chapter of Students For Life after a university-approved display stirred controversy.

UB SFL hosted signs erected by the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), which placed the deaths of 55 American million babies by abortion in the context of atrocities carried out against six million Jewish Holocaust victims and 3,446 blacks lynched in the American South. Organizers placed images of all three events side-by-side.

“[A]s historians, we feel it is imperative to speak out against this crass, uninformed, and dangerous misuse of history,” the professors wrote in a letter to the campus newspaper, The Spectrum, on Tuesday.

The letter likened the display to marauding lynch mobs that hanged black men for raping white women, alleging SFL members shared views prevalent in the Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction South.

“The inability to see women as capable of making decisions about their own sexuality. The use of violent, inaccurate, and misleading imagery. The pretense of protection. Anti-abortion protesters appear to have a lot in common with those who supported lynching,” they wrote.

“If students wish to learn more about the history of racial and sexual violence, including lynching, we welcome them to take any of our classes.”

The signatories were:

  • Susan Cahn, Professor of History;
  • Carole Emberton, Assistant Professor of History;
  • Theresa Runstedtler, Assistant Professor of American Studies;
  • Lakisha Simmons, Assistant Professor of Global Gender Studies;
  • Victoria Wolcott, Professor of History; and
  • Jason Young, Associate Professor of History.

“As a student in the history department and president of the pro-life club on campus, not only am I ashamed and appalled that my professors twisted our message to suit their point of view, but I am offended due to their false characterization of our argument,” responded chapter President Christian Andzel. “We were citing the history of oppression and voicelessness of the victims who deserved human rights and justice.”

The national organization has said the conduct is irresponsible and unprofessional.

“This is not the kind of example professors from a public university, funded with our tax money, should be setting for our students,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “We stand with UB Students for Life for courageously fighting to bring the truth of abortion to a liberal campus, despite attempts to shout them down, cover the display, and personally attack group leaders like President Christian Andzel.”

The letter to the editor was not the only act of opposition from a UB faculty member. Laura Curry, a professor of media studies, cursed at the students – and then at her arresting officers – claiming the display was more profane than her repeated use of the f-word.

“UB SFL is the pro-life generation and they are already showing they know how to behave like better adults than the ones opposing them,” Hawkins said.

Labeling the pro-life movement as a “hate group” is an increasingly common tactic on campus and in society. This month, Johns Hopkins University reluctantly approved the petition of Voice for Life after a member of the student government likened the pro-life movement to an alleged “hate group,” the White Student Union at Towson University.

Hawkins said the University at Buffalo, a part of the State University of New York, has had a troubling history of disregarding the First Amendment rights of its conservative students.

Its application process took longer and faced more hurdles than the norm. According to SFL, the Student Association Vice President admitted that, in SFL's words, “the Student Government (SGA) was simply waiting for the club to die out,” by refusing to process their application, not returning e-mails, and not keeping appointments with officers.

In May 2011, three waves of vandalism hit the club's “cemetery of the innocents,” uprooting 330 crosses. “We wanted a statement condemning it. We didn’t expect that [Unversity at Buffalo president Satish Tripathi] wouldn’t even take our phone call,” said Sara Buttitta, then-president of UB Students for Life.

Tripathi stated she wanted to find out who was responsible for the successive actions before condemning them. No action was taken.

Last December the UB chapter of Amnesty International refused pro-life students the opportunity to participate in its annual Human Rights Day Celebration because of SFL's views on abortion. Campus leaders said they wanted to participate to show their support for prisoners of conscience.

“This campus is clearly intolerant of the pro-life position and incapable of having a discussion on the morality of abortion,” Hawkins said. “Sadly, we have seen an increase in this type of behavior nationwide this year where abortion advocates have become desperate, refusing to address any issues of abortion but personally attacking the students forcing the discussion.”


Office of the President, Satish K. Tripathi

501 Capen Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260

Phone: 716-645-2901
Fax: 716-645-3728
E-mail: [email protected]

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