Students to challenge verdict

The University of Calgary saga continued with the pro-life students of the club Campus Pro-Life hosting the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) on April 8, despite warnings from the university administration. This was the ninth time the GAP had been hosted at this campus since 2006. The students were issued notices by campus security threatening punishment for their actions.

Non-academic misconduct hearings were initiated by the administration and they took place on April 28 and 30 for the eight pro-life students. The hearings were conducted behind closed doors and the students were not allowed to bring legal representation.

On May 10, the students were notified that they were found guilty. The verdict is “a formal written warning” that if the students “fail to comply with directives of campus security staff in the future” it will “result in more severe sanctions,” said acting associate vice-provost Meghan Houghton, who was the sole decision-maker in the guilty verdict.

“We are going to challenge this verdict,” stated CPL president Alanna Campbell. “We did not break a single university bylaw or regulation and so we will defend ourselves accordingly. We will also not cease exercising our rights to free speech just because they’re threatening us. I’d rather be expelled as a principled person than graduate a coward.”

The administration charged the students with a “major violation” under Section 4.10 of the University of Calgary’s Non-Academic Misconduct Policy for “failure to comply with a campus security officer or university official in legitimate pursuit of his/her duties.”

In 2006 and 2007, the club set up GAP four times and the university defended the students’ right to expression under the Charter, but in 2008 the university reversed its policy without explanation.

“We’ve never received an explanation for why the university reversed their position, nor have we received any explanation as to what a security official’s legitimate duties actually include,” stated vice-president (internal) Peter Csillag.

The GAP is an outdoor display that compares abortion to past historical atrocities, such as the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The students’ goal is to expose the injustice of abortion and engage the culture through dialogue. Informational pamphlets are handed out and the students are available to discuss the images and issues with any passerby.

In 2009, the university charged six students with trespassing in relation to the display, but the Crown prosecutor stayed the charges prior to a trial scheduled for November 2009.

“We’ve been informed that there are a lot of possible punishments involved, ranging from warnings to expulsion,” stated Cristina Perri, CPL secretary. “There’s nothing they can do to us individually that compares to what hundreds of unborn children encounter each day in our country