In pursuing trespassing charges against students who set up a pro-life display on campus last fall, the University of Calgary is not only trampling on free speech, it is wasting money on an expensive court case at a time when the global economic crisis has cost the university $78 million of its endowment fund. The money the U of C is about to fritter away on lawyers and court costs in its oppression of students whose only "crime" is publicly espousing pro-life views, could be better directed to research, infrastructure, scholarships for underprivileged students or other practical purposes.
The university's hypocrisy is appalling and not just because a university by its very nature is supposed to be a forum for free speech, dissent and debate. As the Campus Pro-Life club points out, theirs is the only group whose graphic display the university ordered turned inward so passersby couldn't see it. A bare 30 metres from the pro-life display, graphic pictures of atrocities inflicted on members of Falun Gong by the Chinese government were al-lowed to be on display with nary a word of protest from university authorities. The university clearly appears to be muzzling views with which it does not agree -- a shameful stance for any institution worthy of the name "university" to take.
Last November, the club received a letter from Paul Beke, the U of C's lawyer, claiming that the university is private property and has a right to control what happens on that property. The university, in reality, is a publicly funded institution, and students who have paid tuition to attend the U of C cannot be accused of trespassing when they're on campus. They also have a right to express their views, regardless of how unpopular those views may be with the administration.
A court must rule on the side of freedom of expression, for if students' opinions are successfully muzzled today, then perhaps tomorrow the university's professors need to start looking over their shoulders, too.