• August 20, 2019
A petition has been launched to ban a pro-life club on campus at AUT. Photo: Faith Cleverley
Students raising a petition to ban a university anti-abortion club have prompted warnings from free speech advocates about the dangers of censorship.
The petition on Change.org, signed by 388 people so far, is demanding the Student’s Association “shut down” the ProLife Club at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) but not without concerns of such a banning occurring at a university.
Free speech is most important at universities where “knowledge is being created”, limiting free speech at an institution like AUT is limiting the university’s ability to develop ideas, says Free Speech Coalition founder, Paul Moon.
“If you start to stifle speech- we can look at this but not examine that- you’re effectively putting boundaries for the possibilities for new knowledge to emerge,” he says.
Moon, says those behind the petition should engage with the opposing view if they want to develop effective discussion surrounding the issue.
“The message that really sends is the people behind that petition don’t really have a better way of dealing with the arguments, if you don’t like their view challenge it, show them why it’s wrong,” says AUT lecturer Dr Moon.
The petition was initiated by AUT student, Isla Evans, in response to the Student’s Association voting to affiliate the ProLife club at the university.
Evans argues while freedom of speech is important the pro-life club is “impinging on a basic fundamental human right: the autonomy of one’s own body, which is possibly more important than the right to freedom of speech”.
AUTSA acknowledged the opposition in their decision to permit the pro-life club however decided it was within their duty to allow the club to have a voice at AUT.
“There are students from many different backgrounds at AUT. Many of them will hold pro-life views. If AUTSA wishes to faithfully represent all its members it should avoid discriminating against those who reasonably hold to minority viewpoints.”
A pro-choice club is currently launching in direct response to the forming of ProLife AUT and the discovery one did not already exist on campus.
“I thought that people nowadays would dismiss that ideology out of the park, but it’s there so there needs to be resistance,” says group leader and student Matthew Bamford-King.
Evans aims to use the petition to raise awareness and create a platform for those students who oppose the presence of an anti-abortion group on campus.