The student government at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) has rejected, in a 5-3 vote, a request for university recognition of a Students for Life (SFL) chapter, labeling the club a “hate group.”
A video released by Young America’s Foundation (YAF) shows members of the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) participating in an Oct. 7 Zoom meeting, during which Student Sen. Max Tensen called pro-life views “hate speech” and “hateful rhetoric that is infringing on basic human rights.”
“We cannot support diversity and be complicit in its destruction at the same time,” he added.
Another student senator, Triet Ngo, also objected to the SFL group, saying: “I would argue that not all opinions are equal. There are opinions, and then there are opinions that get people killed, in many cases. There’s really no middle ground here.” Ngo apparently missed the irony of his statement that abortion takes a human life.
And yet another student senator went as far as comparing the SFL club to a white supremacist group.
“I wasn’t really surprised by how NISG reacted because I know abortion is a controversial topic,” said Sophia Schuster, the pro-life UNI student who applied to start the group, “but I was shocked by how they allowed their emotions and personal opinions to influence their decision. Students for Life met all of the requirements for being approved set forth by UNI, but they completely ignored that fact. I think they have overstepped their role and tried to use their power to silence us just because they disagree. This is a direct attack on free speech and of due process of law and an example of abandoning standards that they claim to hold.
“I think it’s one of the biggest misconceptions [that people who are pro-life] want to oppress women. … Our whole purpose is to tell women that they’re strong and we love them,” she explained.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said that legal counsel had been contacted on behalf of the group as the case works its way through the university’s appeal process.
Schuster appealed the decision to the student body supreme court, but the court upheld the student government’s decision to deny her petition. She is now working on an appeal to the university’s president.
“Despite the school’s own rules that viewpoint discrimination is not acceptable, student government leaders attacked fellow students for their pro-life views and denied a request for a new club based on their personal support of abortion,” Hawkins noted.
A university’s spokesman told YAF that the school supports Schuster’s right to appeal and admitted that the student government “violated UNI policy by rendering a decision that was not content neutral.”
State Sen. Amy Sinclair, chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, applauded UNI’s statement.
“What happened at UNI with the Students for Life organization is a sad indication of where our society is today,” she said. “There is no longer a willingness by many people, particularly on the left, to have meaningful dialogue with those whose opinions differ from their own. The actions of the UNI Student Senate are not only in clear violation of Iowa’s campus free speech laws and the policies of the university but display a blatant disregard for the First Amendment to the Constitution of our nation. I was pleased that [the] university administration came out in opposition to the illegal and suppressive actions of this freedom-violating group of students.”
Sarah Minnich, SFLA’s regional coordinator, who was assisting Schuster in starting the pro-life club, called on UNI President Mark Nook to reverse the student government’s decision.
“The decision of the NISG and the supreme court demonstrates that they put their ideological affiliations above fellow students and at the cost of productive dialogue on campus,” she said. “In addition, the SFL group was forming to promote the dignity of the preborn and aid pregnant and parenting students on campus, which should qualify as a ‘good faith’ reason to start any club. Their decision is unacceptable and should be overturned by the university’s president.”
Above: A Students for Life member attends the 2020 March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., on January 24.
Photo: David Morrison/©2020 Samaritan's Purse