Flames of the Torch

Editorial Board

Although every student and student group has the right to express their beliefs under the First Amendment, there’s always a point when actions can cross the line. Students should never be made to feel offended by a message on their own college campus. 

Last week, some students were dealt an awkward hand as they came across anti-Planned Parenthood fliers posted by the Students for Life group around campus. Those fliers included the Campus Ministry logo, despite Campus Ministry having not approved it, according to Tori Santangelo, associate vice president.

Tremendous backlash flooded social media as students who were offended by the language used on the fliers spoke their minds as well. The fliers in question used language that students felt was insulting and heavy-handed. The student reaction on Twitter, including tweets directed at the University, consisted of accusations of a hate campaign as well as general disapproval of the group’s fliers. 

Freedom of speech is what makes America great and sets our nation apart from so many others. So we need to keep in mind that while Students for Life had the right to post opinionated fliers, there were ways that the group could have made the fliers more appropriate. A good way to do that would have been to discuss why they believe in being pro-life as opposed to focusing on why Planned Parenthood is near criminal in their minds. 

It goes without saying that St. John’s University is a traditionally pro-life campus. As a Catholic and specifically Vincentian University, one of the tenets the school abides by is supporting pro-life measures. 

However, the University also prides itself on its diversity, which comes with various student opinion. Certainly one group can broadcast their beliefs, but it must also be understood that their broadcast won’t come without controversy. Our diversity makes us stronger as a University in many ways, and the varying opinions that are brought to the table are certainly a strong element that should not be ignored.

That variety of opinion should lead to healthy discussion, and it’s clear Santangelo agrees. She said the fliers that went up “would not have been approved because they did not invite students to talk about the issue.” 

Again, the group had the right to post the fliers, but the fact that so many students were upset after reading it means that there should have been a reassessment of the content and its messaging. They could have established their point more effectively.

As a student newspaper, we take pride in being able to deliver content without being censored. The First Amendment allows us to publish whatever sort of content comes our way — within the basic principles of ethical journalism — so we exercise our right to free speech all the time. This means that while we don’t endorse what the fliers said, we do believe the group had the right to post their beliefs. 

But we also commend the University for reacting quickly to student backlash and making sure the fliers were removed.

This comes with a caveat: we do think that the group should have exercised caution when it came to the content of the fliers. The language used made students uncomfortable and some of the statistics were misleading as well.