The equality of free speech among all student organizations at Eastern Michigan University was questioned during the student senate meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Senator Nick Galluzzo told the Senate a narrative of inequality that he witnessed regarding the pro-life and pro-choice debate on campus.
“At nine o’clock on Tuesday morning (10/15/19) on the way to the Science Complex for class, I noticed there was pro-life messaging on the sidewalk in front of Halle Library, and I later learned it was also in front of the Student Center and by Pray-Harold, as well,” Galluzzo said. “This was the same location and manner in which there was pro-choice messaging the prior week."
By the time my class ended at 10:45 a.m., the pro-life chalk was already largely tampered with or erased entirely. It’s worth mentioning that the pro-choice messaging, which was again in the same location just the last week, was left untouched the entire time it was there.”
During the week of Monday, Oct. 14, Protect Life at EMU – the pro-life group on campus – reserved spaces in front of the Student Center, in front of Halle Library and around Pray-Harold two weeks prior. The group said they spent over an hour working on the chalk drawings, only to have them tampered with and erased within 24 hours while the pro-choice messages were left untouched.
Galluzzo went on to say how this was not an isolated incident on campus.
“Eastern [Michigan University] has been embroiled in a free-speech crisis for the last few years, and this is just the most recent example of the general hostility with which the Eastern campus appeared to regard difference of opinion, especially as it relates to the pro-choice/pro-life debate,” Galluzzo said.
Representatives from Protect Life at EMU came to speak to the Senate on behalf of their organization and the inequalities they feel they are experiencing.
President of Protect Life at EMU Dallas Gomez said the group is upset about the destruction of their messages as well as the inequalities it faces from the Student Government and the university itself.
“I have been president of this group for two years now but have been an active member of the group since coming to Eastern in 2016,” Gomez said. “I think that it is unfair that both the university and Student Government felt the need to send out a warning when Created Equal came to campus and not for other controversial events that take place here."
I believe that a lot of the opposition my group foresees is played up by these sorts of actions being taken. I am hurt and frustrated because it is not the first time we had to deal with displays being destroyed and nothing has been done.”
Georgia Nagel, president of Planned Parenthood Next Generation – the pro-choice organization on campus – stated their group is only here to help educate students and did not condone any of these actions against Protect Life at EMU, making it evident that both organizations are striving for a safe platform to spread their messages.
“Our organization did not encourage, participate [in] or condone the washing away of chalk messages,” Nagel said. “In fact, we have told our members not to participate in this, as it does not help us better serve the people on this campus. Our group functions to educate students and give them a platform and a voice to advocate for themselves and others. Our advocacy does not seek to silence any individual or to invalidate their experiences.”
Galluzzo agrees that the Student Government needs to prioritize the fair and equal free speech for all organizations and students.
“It is our responsibility on this Body to support the ability of all students to voice their opinions irrespective of whether or not we agree with them,” Galluzzo said. “Free speech and open inquiry are essential to Eastern’s mission as a university, however, the current campus environment does not reflect these ideals.
In light of this reality, I encourage everyone on this Body to join me in the effort of developing an environment in which the aforementioned ideals can thrive for the benefit of all students, where diversity of thought is as valued as the other diversities this university channels. In the next few weeks, I plan on making some sort of resolution just to recommit us to the values of free speech and free inquiry.”
Alexander Ware, member of Protect Life at EMU, said he was let down after he witnessed the lack of respect on campus.
“Eastern Michigan’s goal is to promote a loving community where free speech of every group is accepted and for every group to feel safe and valued by the university,” Ware said. “This event that took place has taken away both. Do you only support free speech from the groups that you agree with?”