Students that belong to a pro-life campus group called Cornell Coalition for Life (CCFL) spent weeks and hundreds of dollars organizing a pro-life display to be featured on the Cornell University Engineering Campus in Ithaca, New York. This was no guerilla campaign, either, because the CCFL applied for and received permission for its display. Yet, scarcely an hour had passed before an associate dean for the university summarily decided on her own to support the removal of the display by an administrative assistant despite that the display was approved by the college. This incident happened on October 22, yet the media has completely ignored this troubling story.
The CCFL had erected its "Elena Campaign" signs in the Engineering Quad to raise awareness among students of the earlier stages of fetal development, stages when many falsely imagine that a fetus is just a "lump of cells." As the CCFL says, its "Elena Campaign" is "a series of light-hearted educational signs with pictures and text detailing the biological development of an unborn child."
The CCFL reports that regardless of approval, the dean and her assistant removed the display.
Less than one hour after the Cornell Coalition for Life (CCFL) set up their “Elena Campaign” signs in the Engineering Quad, the signs were abruptly removed by Dawn Warren, an administrative assistant, and taken to the Facilities Office of the College of Engineering. The “Elena Campaign” is a series of light-hearted educational signs with pictures and text detailing the biological development of an unborn child. Though CCFL had gone through the proper administrative avenues to get approval for the display, Warren removed the signs without permission because she did not personally approve of the content.
After this administrative assistant illicitly removed the signs, an assistant dean of the school helped her suppress the student's rights further.
Together, Dawn Warren and Cathy Dove, Associate Dean for Administration in the College of Engineering, attempted to prevent members of CCFL from retrieving the signs. Only when the Cornell Police were brought in did Warren and Dove relinquish the property. Even then, Dove tried to intimidate the students and requested that the signs not be put up again, referencing an “unwritten policy” among the College of Engineering to prevent “opinionated displays.”
Fortunately, the campus police were able to prevail upon the dean and her assistant to relinquish the signs for the approved display to resume.
The illicitly removed signs sat in the dean's area as the police attempted to resolve the dispute.
On the website of the free speech campus watchdog group FIRE, Adam Kissel has more on this story. According to Kissel, the dean claimed that the CCFL folks were violating an "unwritten" rule that such displays were not allowed.
The students tried to retrieve their signs from Dawn Warren and Cathy Dove, Associate Dean for Administration in the College of Engineering, but Dove reportedly said that the College of Engineering had an "unwritten policy" that prevented "opinionated displays" on the quad. Dove also reportedly said that Cornell was becoming increasingly concerned about not having its green spaces "cluttered."
In a further effort to suppress free expression, Dove also threatened that she would take up the "unwritten rule" with Cornell administrators to try to get it made official.
This is yet one more example, ruefully noted, of the oppressive tendency to quash free speech that is occurring on our university and college campuses all across the country. Now, if this had been a pro-abortion group that had its freedom of speech stamped upon by college administrators, who can doubt that the media would have made the matter front page news? Yet, since it was a pro-life group that was oppressed, we've heard not a peep about this story in the media.
Sad, but not unexpected.
(Note, to see images of all the "Elena Campaign" signs, visit my friend Leslie Carbone's blog HERE.)