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My response to Santa Barbara College editorial hit piece against Project Truth

This is an editorial in the Santa Barbara City College newspaper after our visit to the campus with our Project Truth display and my response to the editorial.

The Channels Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL
Antony Marchiando
October 23, 2015
Filed under Editorials, On campus, Opinion, Top Stories

The ability to freely express yourself and your point of view is one of the most important freedoms we have as citizens of the United States.

The First Amendment grants everyone the right to exercise this power, but it comes with some important limitations.

Last week, an anti-abortion group from Sacramento called Project Truth came to City College to exercise those rights, but we at The Channels Editorial Board feel they went over the line and abused this power. They went beyond just expressing their opinions and came much closer to harmful and harassing, all while administration sat by and watched.

City College has a set of 15 rules any group like Project Truth must agree to before coming to campus.In our opinion, Project Truth violated rules 3, 6, 8 and 9.

The group had signs displayed in multiple areas, almost none of which were on their table.The materials they gave out caused a "substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the community college." Students were stopped on the sidewalk on their way to class, called "Nazis" for their beliefs and worked up into heated screaming matches.Some students reported not being able to attend class because they had been so affected by the whole situation.

Rules 8 and 9 are the most important violations though.

What happened last week clearly falls under the definition of a "publicity stunt." They used pictures from the event to promote themselves and their organization, not to promote a healthy discussion on an incredibly important topic.They secretly taped students with small cameras, and used the footage on their Facebook page without their permission.

And according to rule 9, all "non-college individuals/groups will be limited to no more than one (1) event per week." Project Truth was allowed to demonstrate on both Wednesday and Thursday last week.

Our most important question is a simple one; why didn't administration step in and protect students from this sort of demonstration?

When asked last week, Student Life Adviser Amy Collins told The Channels that the school is not able to turn anyone away, as long as those demonstrating follow the guidelines.

After these guidelines weren't followed, administration should have gotten involved and never should have allowed Project Truth to come back after the first day. It's true they have every right to be here and talk to students, but the graphic images they displayed and the way students were reportedly treated clearly infringed upon the rights of students.

At this point, the First Amendment has become a shield for extremists in America. Groups like Project Truth can do and say almost anything because citizens think of free speech as a zero sum game, but in reality that just isn't the case. Rape survivors, women who have gone through abortions or even had miscarriages shouldn't be forced to relive such a terrible experience by seeing overly graphic pictures of a dead fetus. It doesn't add anything to the argument; it's simply meant to illicit an emotional response.

Schools should be a safe environment for students to focus on their education. They shouldn't have to worry about being harassed or triggered on their way to class. It is the duty of City College to provide this environment on campus and by allowing this to take place, the college failed in that duty.

My response:

SBCC Editor,
We have a right to our own opinions, but we do not have a right to our own facts.

It seems to me that the editors of a college newspaper should be held accountable for printing distortions and misinformation to the readers. The opinion printed concerning the free speech activity of the pro-life group Project Truth on campus last week is a case in point.

A careful reading of the California State College Free Speech Handbook and the "Fire" website online will be a great resource giving the FACTS of the law and numerous court cases clarifying free speech activity on a college campus. The editors of the Channel would do well in going beyond their bias and misguided feelings to write a hit piece, and make a better attempt to give accurate information to the readers.

As an example, school policies CANNOT violate the laws concerning free speech activities. Courts have repeatedly struck down school policies that were used to overly control free speech. The editorial misstates the intention of the idea of "substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the community college." Courts have repeatedly addressed the misuse of this phrase in order to shut down or overly control civil discourse. The editor's opinions are on the wrong side of the Court's conclusions.

Martin Luther King, Jr.rightly stated when attacked for his push to show injustice, "like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates..."

The "exposure" that the facts created by the Project Truth team showed that many students have not developed a reasonable and logical understanding of the issue of abortion, thus creating emotional recklessness by a few frustrated students. The editorial staff of the Channel have done a great disservice to the students by printing more incorrect information and flaming the misguided emotions even further.

It seems the editors should be troubled that throughout the ten hours of civil discourse with the students, many students stated:

"That thing inside a woman's body is not alive"

"The baby inside doesn't have a heartbeat or brainwaves until several months into the pregnancy."

That thing inside my body is just a clump of cells."

"You can't have religious material on our campus."

This is a liberal campus, what are you doing here?" (My personal favorite)

"When I'm having an abortion, I'm aborting my body."

Are these incorrect, and may I say, foolish statements and many others proclaimed to the Project Truth team throughout the two days examples of the education from the classrooms of the college. I sure hope not.

We were on the campus to give accurate information to the students that appear to have been misinformed by someone, and your editorial staff seems to be a source of the misinformation students are digesting.

Some members of the staff of the college did stand off to the side, watching the activity for hours.One staffer approached me and told me that the accusations towards our team were without merit and that the administration would be told the truth later that day.

It should also trouble you that some students would be angry at all over the photos. After all, is it not the mantra of the "pro-choice" movement that "it's just a clump of cells?" So what would be the big deal over removing a clump of cells?

I think the "tension created" came from the reality exposed by the photos, which the soundbites of the abortion-on-demand crowd are being exposed as false ideas and many students have made abortion decisions based on false information.

Our team is thankful for the students who approached us and expressed their appreciation for presenting the information.Some students shared with us that they had changed their minds on this important issue after seeing the reality of abortion. One student reprimanded a fellow student for being rude to our team, and told the rude student that she just finished reading the brochure that was handed to her earlier. She declared to the student that she was now a pro-life advocate.

We had a great exchange of ideas while on the campus and many students who disagreed with us were civil and respectful during our dialogue, shaking hands after an exchange. Thank you to those students.

There are many more inaccuracies stated by the editorial that should be addressed, but that's all for now. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond.

William Wilberforce
Project Truth

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Monday, 17 June 2024
The Pen is mightier than the sword…
To paralyze the Caesars,
And to strike the loud earth breathless!
English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839
A derivative of Hebrews 4:12

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