New Zealand University Students Ban Pro-Life Club

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THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

In a stunning blow to diversity and free speech, Auckland University students have voted to abolish the campus pro-life club, with opposition calling it an “embarrassment” for the university.

Some 2700 students participated in an online referendum asking whether Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) should disaffiliate “ProLife Auckland,” the students’ pro-life club. The motion passed, with about 1600 students voting in favor and 1000 voting against.

Auckland Students for Choice spokeswoman Justine Rose, who is also a member of Campus Feminist Collective, said ProLife had been an “embarrassment for AUSA for a long time.”

Since the referendum did not directly affect AUSA’s financial or administrative processes, its decision was considered automatically binding, although the organization is reportedly seeking legal advice regarding specific concerns raised by members.

The referendum further questioned whether clubs espousing a “similar ideology” should be barred from affiliating in the future.

The decision by AUSA to disaffiliate the pro-life club was largely symbolic, since the ProLife Club will still be allowed to access university space and distribute information on campus, and set up a stall during orientation week.

Still, the symbolic tarring of the group as “unacceptable” is not without consequences, according to the group’s leaders.

It may, for one thing, affect the group’s funding.

ProLife Auckland co-president Jelena Middleton said she was “dismayed” to hear about the motion and suggested that it will hamper the group’s ability to raise funds and will result in restrictions in its on-campus activities and advertising.

The pro-life group will be financially penalized by having to pay more for rooms and resources controlled by AUSA than they would have when they were an affiliated club. Any application for funding made by disaffiliated clubs is generally opposed by AUSA, which will likely result in further financial punishment inflicted upon Prolife Auckland.

In a post on the ProLife Facebook page, Middleton said the group peacefully expresses legitimate ethical views about abortion, and that AUSA was “punishing” them because it didn’t agree with these views.

She called the disaffiliation “unjust and legally dubious.”

“What makes this even more frightening is that it is happening at one of this country’s largest universities—which should be a place where diversity of thought is not only tolerated, but also actively fostered and protected,” she said.

This was the first successful disaffiliation attempt on the group, which had faced the ban several times since its establishment in 2010.

According to a Family First New Zealand national director Bob McCoskrie, the AUSA decision is a “disturbing continuation of attempts by both the state and now tertiary institutions to shut down free speech, debate and views.”

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