By Morgan McCormack – [email protected]
After the Students for Life club’s display on the Gorecki wall was vandalized in January, the lack of a pro-choice club on campus was brought to the attention of many students.
While CSB/SJU students have right to propose the creation of clubs on campus, the existence of a Pro-Choice Club, a proposed club advocating for abortion rights, has continuously been denied by administration.
The most recent denial occurred spring 2016 semester. Before the club proposal had been submitted, CSB/SJU administration told CSB senior Anne Gleich and SJU junior Matt Rengo, the students who drafted the proposal, it would be denied.
After contacting the administration both Gleich and Rengo were told the club would go against both the Catholic and Benedictine values and therefore would not be approved.
“Students, and everyone else who is a member of the CSB/SJU community, have the right to express their own personal beliefs—even on campus—so long as they do so in appropriate ways and forums,” Fr. Doug Mullin, VP of Student Activities, said via email. “It is not reasonable to expect CSB/SJU to institutionally endorse, support or approve clubs organizations or any activities that are not consistent with the CSB and SJU institutional missions.”
For some, the denial of a pro-choice club has left students feeling as if they can’t express their viewpoint on issues in the same way that other groups can. Students who identify as pro-choice are not allowed the resources afforded to clubs at CSB/SJU.
“Recognized groups have so much power: using the wall in Gorecki, sending out mass emails, bringing speakers to campus. We just wanted to have the same opportunity as any other interest group,” Gleich said via email. “I am continually frustrated that the only avenue available to students to express their disagreements with issues surrounding reproductive justice are writing letters in The Record or on Facebook, etc.”
There is a bureaucratic process for the review of proposed clubs to either be created or denied.
On the CSB/SJU campuses, each club must fill out forms that show their club fits in with the mission statements of the campus, the Catholic church and the Benedictine values. Clubs must also possess a club constitution, 10 members and an academic adviser.
The Joint Club Board (JCB), a board made up of school senate members, members of Student Activities and Leadership Development and faculty, receive completed forms from students hoping to form a club and then begins their review process. It is listed on the website as an eight-step process.
On the school website, there are 11 services and benefits listed that recognized clubs are eligible for access to on both campuses. Two services that both Gleich and Rengo believe would benefit a pro-choice club and pro-choice students are access to staff, resources and services of the Department of Student Activities and Leadership Development as well as the ability to hold fundraising events.
“For students, it would just be an opportunity to have exposure to different viewpoints,” Rengo said. “I know there are a lot of students who are pro-choice or consider themselves pro-choice. And because of the limiting of this conversation they don’t have the same access to information as the students who are pro-life. I think it would allow for discussion, it would fit with the liberal arts mission with kind of presenting different ideas and conflicting opinions. I think it would hold both sides accountable.”
Gleich and Rengo also believe that creating a pro-choice club on the CSB/SJU campuses would allow for a broader understanding and more education between both the pro-life and pro-choice communities at CSB/SJU.
“I think that a lot of people on campus want better education about reproductive justice, whether it be about better birth control options, or simply to be able to have an open, honest conversation about what it means to be pro-choice,” Gleich said. “I think we’re missing a critical dialogue on campus. I just want people to know I’m not against having a pro-life club on campus—I’m all in favor of students having a safe space to express their opinions and beliefs, I just want an equal opportunity to have that space myself.”
FEATURE ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN SCHULZ • [email protected]