When I came across the announcement in Eastern Michigan University’s web portal of the upcoming Genocide Awareness Project, I was expecting to read about an event that would draw our attention to acts of violence against groups based on religion, race and ethnicity. Instead, I was shocked to find the student organization behind the exhibit was comparing genocide to abortion.
I was not able to understand how this exhibit could be allowed. Women who exercise their constitutional right to choose are being accused of mass murder. The university was not only sanctioning this event, they were also publicizing it. Considering EMU has had two female students murdered on campus in the past six years, as well as a number of assaults against women, I would think the university would be sensitive to the use of inflammatory material targeting woman.
Upon further research I discovered that GAP was funded by a pro-life group called Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Their mission is to use graphic images to, as they claim, “induce people from considering an abortion.”
After watching a video featuring the posters they would use, I felt compelled to register a complaint, so I contacted EMU’s ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman states that its role is to “listen and discuss questions regarding the functioning of the university,” so I sent an email with my concerns. Two days later, having received no reply to my email message, I went to the office in person.
At the front desk, I was told the ombudsman does not deal with student organizations. Pointing out the fact that student organizations are partly funded by my tuition, I felt it would be appropriate for the ombudsman to address my concerns. I was referred to a form to register my complaint, and noticed that, contrary to what I had been told, one of the options for areas of grievance was student organizations.
After filling out the form, I contacted the Student Organization Coordinator, Casey Jordan. I left a voice mail and also followed up with an email. To date I have not received a response from either Jordan or Gregory Peoples, the EMU ombudsman. It is clear that each department opted to ignore me, perhaps hoping that if they did nothing, it would all go away.
Unfortunately, that is not how it works. They should have the common courtesy to address my concerns, or direct me to someone who could. That abortion is a controversial issue does not allow Jordan and Peoples to ignore students who have concerns about an event hosted by a student organization.
Never able to talk with anyone from EMU, all I felt I could do was to address my class before lecture, and ask that if other students found this offensive, they might try and find someone to register their complaint to.
On Thursday, I saw the display and it was as contemptuous and inflammatory as I expected. But the truly sad part of all of this was the cowardly way in which Campus Life and the Office of the Ombudsman chose to avoid dealing with my concerns.
Christina Wright, EMU student