Western Kentucky U student: No, I didn’t apologize for desecrating pro-life crosses with condoms
BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY, April 25, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The student who placed condoms over 3,700 crosses at Western Kentucky University as part of an “art project,” has told the media she has not apologized for the desecration, as university president Gary Ransdell publicly claimed she had done. The girl’s art professor has also admitted she approved the vandalism.
The crosses made up a university-approved pro-life display, the Cemetery of the Innocents, erected by the pro-life group Hilltoppers for Life. Last Friday,WKU student Elaina Smith placed condoms over each cross as an “art” project. Campus police made no effort to stop her.
After the event became a national story, WKU President Gary A. Ransdell released a statement. “The offending student has apologized,” he wrote. “This matter has been dealt with properly, decisively, and brought to a conclusion.”
But a local television station reports, “Contrary to Ransdell’s statement, Elaina Smith told WBKO that she has not apologized to anyone yet.”
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On Monday, Smith told local media, “I had worried that my idea might offend some. However, after giving it a lot of thought, I came to believe that it is no more or less offensive than the original installation.”
On Tuesday night Smith’s art professor, Kristina Arnold, told WBKO she gave Smith her approval for the vandalism.
“Learning and debating are not always pretty or polite processes,” Arnold wrote in a statement. “If we are asked to introduce our students to all the tools of debate and engagement, they will use these tools,” she wrote. “The use and discovery of tools, and the use and discovery of voice is exactly what is occurring on our campus, on both sides of this current discussion.”
“The faculty could use a refresher on how discourse is conducted in a free society,” Robert Shibley, senior vice president of the academic watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,(FIRE) told LifeSiteNews.com.
“It’s a form of vandalism and should have been dealt with in that way,” Shibley said.
“Considering the faculty member told the student it was OK to do that, I think the student might be able to be excused for thinking it was fine. But if the president left the impression that doing this sort of thing is fine from now on on Western Kentucky’s campus, then I think that’s a real problem.”
Pro-life leaders around the country have their own questions about WKU’s commitment to freedom of speech.
“Does the President [of WKU] support Professor Arnold’s statement?” asked Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, which is assisting the WKU students. “Additionally, the student was armed with enough condoms to cover all the crosses, 3,700 of them. Who paid for the condoms – were they obtained from the student health center or a nearby abortion clinic? Did the school help pay for these ‘art’ supplies?”
Hawkins has asked for a public apology from Smith, another apology from WKU campus police for their inaction, and an assurance that Smith will not receive academic credit for what the students regard as an act of vandalism.
Shibley said students whose rights are violated may have to resort to legal remedies. Barring that, they can fight in the court of public opinion.
“You can go to local media or national media and tell your story and get the story out there. Universities are averse to controversy,” Shibley told LifeSiteNews. “They don’t want people to know when controversial things happen on campus, but in a free society, sometimes there’s gonna be controversy.”
President Gary A. Ransdell
Office of the President
1906 College Heights Blvd., #11001
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Kristina Arnold, Assistant Professor of Art
WKU Police Captain of Professional Standards, Joe Harbaugh