Pro-lifers lose club status

By Katy Anderson

University of Calgary’s Campus Pro-Life club was disbanded by the Students’ Union on Tuesday afternoon.

The council chambers in MacEwan Students’ Centre were packed as media crowded into the circular room to hear the SU’s verdict on whether or not the club would remain sanctioned.

The hearing was called last week after university administration charged members of the group with trespassing for ignoring requests by the university to turn their display inwards. The display, titled the Genocide Awareness Project, juxtaposes graphic images of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide with abortion.

The committee ruled that CPL violated the SU’s Club Procedure 17.1 f which reads “The Club Committee may remove a club, a fraternity or a special event organizing group’s sanctioned status or withhold funding or services from a club, a fraternity or a special event organizing group at any time if the group violates the Students’ Union or university constitution, bylaws, procedures or policies; or any federal, provincial or municipal laws and legislation.”

Asia Strezynski, CPL club secretary and Tuesday’s official speaker, said the decision was unjust because it didn’t specifically state what rule the club had violated.

“The SU again failed to specify what policies, bylaws or regulations we were breaking,” she said. “The section 17. 1 that they made reference to, references further policies which they failed to provide.”

CPL lawyer John Carpay said the club will appeal the decision, which will see the students lose funding opportunities, the use of meeting rooms and the ability to borrow equipment.

“It’s going to become quite evident that the clubs committee couldn’t provide any answer of any policy that existed,” said Carpay, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. “An arbitrary censorship letter that signals out one group is not a policy of the university and if it is, we’re in big trouble.”

However, SU president Dalmy Baez insisted the issue is clear-cut, the university policy the club broke was ignoring a stipulation on the event– placing the signs inwards.

“For us to repeal [the bylaw]– we wouldn’t make any exceptions for any organization, no matter what there mandate is– but doing so would probably put more harm on the Students’ Union than benefit,” said Baez.

SU social science representative Teale Phelps Bondaroff said he was concerned that he first heard of the SU’s plans when he read them in the news. As an elected official, he felt that because the issue was so contentious, it should have gone through the Student Legislative Council, the highest governing body of the SU.

“What if the university’s policies are bad?” said Phelps Bondaroff. “What if a club violates the university policy which is not a good policy? There’s no provisions for that. By enforcing university policy without looking at the policy itself, we become a tool of the university.”

He added that he believed the SU should protect clubs from “bad” university policies.

Baez, however, asserted that if the SU felt the university was making an unjust decision they would fight it.

“In this case we feel that the limitations imposed on this event were reasonable,” she said.

CPL treasurer Alanna Campbell understood that the SU had an obligation to stick to their word–┬áthe SU served the club with notice in November that if the club violated university policy they would be punished– but said they missed the opportunity to present CPL with the policy that the club had actually violated.

“I was very disappointed that our student representatives, people that we voted for to represent us, would blatantly ignore justice or ignore facts and would fail to give us reasons– basically do the same thing the university has been doing,” said Campbell.

CPL was also concerned that Alex Judd, SU vice-president operations and finance and club committee chair, sat on the review panel. Judd served three years as president of the Feminist Initiative to Recognize Equality, a group that has actively protested against the GAP display.

Baez was confidant Judd’s past involvement in FIRE would not sway the outcome of the decision.

The U of C and CPL head to court Feb. 27.

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