The Light of Liberty

Posted: Mar 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Unless you are feeding a baby, drop what you are doing right now! This may be longest column I have ever published, but you cannot afford to miss a single word. This column will make you feel angry at its onset and inspired at its conclusion. It begins with a long letter by Stephanie Evans, President of Carolina Students for Life (CSFL) at UNC-Chapel Hill. Last week, she wrote the following to the Carolina Women?s Center (CWC) and copied it to numerous UNC administrators:

Dear Carolina Women's Center Directors,

When Carolina Students for Life, the student-led pro life and women's health organization on campus, began correspondence with you in November of last year, we fully hoped to form a cooperative and helpful relationship between our two organizations that would benefit the women of the University. Unfortunately, CSFL's attempts were met with nothing but false promises and assurances that the Carolina Women's Center would be fair and unbiased in educating the women of UNC-Chapel Hill.

While the CWC claims to promote the admirable tenets of ?diversity of thought? and ?equality,? as your leadership shared with Carolina Students for Life in our March 5, 2004 meeting, nothing could be further from the truth. In the last five months, your attempts to silence our organization, outright refusals to entertain discussions offering an alternative view to abortion, and your support and promotion of pro abortion thought on this campus have been shameful, hypocritical, and illegal. Time after time, the CWC has shown that it is intent on pursuing its own agenda while trying to placate our group as you ignore our concerns.

First, as traditionally done in past years, on the official CWC website, you asked for proposals regarding Women's Week 2004. When CSFL responded to this request, offering two speakers, CWC encouraged us for three months to submit applications and information and to pursue plans to bring in national speakers. We met all your requests, in a very timely manner (your responses, however, were not so timely) and secured two highly regarded, prominent speakers to address the campus on health issues related to women's reproductive rights that would be tied into the official Women's Week theme of ?Oppression.? Despite full compliance with your requests, in late February you informed us that you WOULD NOT be seeking proposals from outside groups.

CSFL was very confused by your new position on Women's Week guests since on your website you requested contributions and then encouraged CSFL to submit proposals. If this was your stance why did your website stand in contradiction to your policy? Why did you waste our time for three months by encouraging us to submit applications and secure speakers? Did your policy suddenly change during the course of planning Women's Week so our group could be excluded from your events?

After your promise to us that you would not be seeking outside proposals for Women's Week, you can understand why we were surprised to learn that other campus organizations would be co-sponsoring Women's Week events this year. Your list of Women's Week 2004 events show that student organizations such as the Campus Y, the Ebony Readers Onyx sub-group of the Black Student Movement, the UNC chapter of the NAACP, the Mu Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Women Affairs Committee of Student Government, the Celebration of Black Womanhood Committee of the Black Student Movement, and the Advocates for the Empowerment of Women of Color of the Campus Y are all co-sponsoring events with the Women's Center this year for Women's Week 2004.

When we asked why these organizations were allowed to include speakers and we were not, you replied because YOU solicited THEIR help, and that they did not even offer proposals. Well, what exactly does it take to be chosen by the Carolina Women's Center to be a part of Women's Week? Clearly, it is not an expressed interest or a concern for women's health. If this were the case, CSFL would have been asked to participate. Clearly, it is not a unique or diverse view of feminism. If it were, then surely, CSFL would have been asked to participate.

As CSFL learns more about the Carolina Women's Center, we are coming to the firm belief that to be recognized by this organization a concern for women, diversity, and equality are not the top criterion, but rather you must first be willing to uphold their pro-abortion beliefs and sentiments in order to be heard.

The following incidents prove our theory. When asked to be included on planning meetings at the Carolina Women's Center, CSFL was told on March 5, 2004 that we were not allowed to attend and that open meeting laws do not apply to the CWC. Whether or not these laws do apply is up for debate - but the fact that the CWC wants closed-door meetings and is attempting to exclude student leadership from their gatherings hurts the organization?s credibility. Is there something the CWC is trying to hide? If not, what is the threat of allowing concerned student groups to listen in or be a part of the decision processes of this public university funded organization?

Another troubling issue concerning the CWC is that you maintain a closed listserv. Why would an organization with the goal of reaching out to the women of the University want to monitor and control who received information about the events it is hosting? These attempts to hide information regarding CWC raise suspicion about your goals and objectives.

Even more distressing is the fact that your organization has actively sought out professors to speak against the recent Partial Birth Abortion Ban. In an email from UNC Law Professor Maxine Eichner, CSFL learned that the CWC asked Ms. Eichner to discuss the ?Partial Birth Abortion Ban and the pro-choice movement's concerns about it.? Not surprisingly, when Ms. Eichner came to speak at the Women's Center on February 18, 2004, there was no other speaker there to defend the Ban, or to give a pro-life view of the Ban. This is a blatant example of the Women's Center's attempt to promote ONE pro abortion ideology on this campus, rather than a community of ?diverse thought? and ?equality.?

Next, the Carolina Women's Center has refused to accommodate requests that the link to the CSFL website be posted on their website. Choice USA, the pro-abortion group on campus, is linked to the website - but the CWC has put off our request to be added with one excuse after another. First, you claimed in February that our 2003 website was not ?updated enough? to be listed as a link (interestingly, your website contains links to the Advocates for Sexual Assault page that has not been updated since 1999, the Carolina V-Day Initiative page - last updated 2003, and the Domestic Violence Action Coalition that is no longer in existence). After we restructured our website and updated it completely, we were told in the March 5, 2004 meeting that you now needed to check our mission statement before you provided us with a link on your website and that this could not be done until April at the very earliest. This is unacceptable. The CWC is well aware that the mission of Carolina Students for Life is to promote a pro life view on campus and to advocate for women's health - there is no reason to not list our website as a place where women of this University can go to find information on reproductive issues.

And, what concerns CSFL the most about the Carolina Women's Center is the fact that they admitted to our leadership in our March 5, 2004 meeting that ?Choice USA is more compatible with CWC because their mission statement promotes the right for women to choose abortion.? Taking such a strong stand on such a hotly debated and politicized issue is not the job of this public agent of the University.

As a public institution, it is your duty to offer both sides of the debate equal time and opportunity in the name of academic freedom if you discuss the issue at all. The CWC has overstepped its legal bounds as a University Organization by taking a pro-abortion stand and excluding pro-life sentiments.

Our attempts to work with CWC have been met with a pattern of delay, resistance, and rejection. To put it plainly, Carolina Students for Life is tired of being dismissed and discriminated against by the Carolina Women's Center. We ask that the CWC makes a swift and honest effort to include information about CSFL on their website, make their meetings open to student leadership, operate a listserv open to all members of the University community, involve all women's groups on campus in their Women's Week events, and most importantly, refrain from taking any stand at all on the abortion issue, but rather promote both sides of the argument fairly and equally.

Also, CSFL will be contacting the Dean of Students since our membership feels that we have been disregarded by the CWC both as individuals and as an organization. We respectfully request that you contact the Dean of Students as well to inform them of a time that you would be available to meet to discuss these concerns.

Carolina Students for Life has been polite, respectful, and cooperative for the last five months in our attempts to have these concerns addressed. However, if immediate action is not taken by the CWC to promote the qualities you claim to support, Carolina Students for Life is prepared to pursue other avenues to make sure that the women of UNC-Chapel Hill do receive an environment where ?diversity of thought? and ?equality? thrive.

Four days after Stephanie?s letter was sent, officers of CSFL were given an opportunity to meet with an administrator from the Office of the Provost, as well as the director and assistant director of CWC. The meeting produced the following results:

1. The CSFL website is now being linked to the website for the CWC.

2. The website for an organization promoting abstinence will also be linked to the CWC website.

3. A pregnancy support service is now being linked to the CWC website.

4. The CWC has been ordered to include both sides of the issue in every program they sponsor on the topic of abortion.

5. The CWC must contact CSFL prior to every event dealing with reproductive issues.

Clearly, we are seeing progress in the campus cultural wars. This progress would not be possible without a free press helping to shed light on injustices perpetrated in the name of diversity. But a free press means nothing without the courage of students like Stephanie Evans who are willing to tackle the injustices that are uncovered.

Finally, we must all stop to recognize the few administrators who are willing to stand up for these students when they assert their rights. According to Stephanie Evans, this recent victory could not have happened without the support of Jean Kitchin on the UNC Board of Trustees and Steve Allred, Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives.

Thanks to the efforts of all involved, the light of liberty is once again shining upon the hill.

Mike S. Adams is the author of ?Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel.?.