December 5, 2008
Dear President Weingarten:
Re: Censorship at University of Calgary
We are a national organization of scholars and interested others whose main goals are the protection of academic freedom and the merit principle in higher education (see www.safs.ca for further information).
I am writing to you to express our opposition to recent attempts by your administration to censor legitimate protest on your campus. According to numerous media reports, a Campus Pro-Life club has faced considerable obstacles in their attempt to hold an on-campus protest against abortion. We take no stand on the issue of abortion, but we are frankly appalled by your administration’s tactics, including threats of fines, suspension, expulsions, and even arrests, to try to control the abortion protest. These tactics are all the more surprising, because we understand that these protests have occurred in previous years without incident.
We are gratified, however, that the university ultimately decided to reverse its decision and last week allowed the club to hold its protest for two days, despite threats from others to disrupt the protest. We commend you for standing up to threats of violence against the protesters. Nonetheless, we continue to be concerned by reports that you directed your security personnel to record the names, addresses, and identification numbers of the student members of the club. We can think of no reason to do so other than intimidation.
Clearly, students and faculty have the academic freedom to debate controversial issues, so long as they do so in a lawful and non-violent manner; we have read no reports indicating that this protest was anything other than lawful and non-violent.
Thus, we believe you owe the broader academic community an explanation of why the Campus Pro-Life club continues to face harassment in expressing its views. We would also urge you to destroy the identification information you have collected regarding members of this club, and to promise to treat those club members in the same manner as you would other students by guaranteeing their academic right to express their opinions on contentious issues.
We look forward to your response. We will post your unedited reply along with our letter on our website.
Clive Seligman, President.