The director of a Washington D.C.-based organization which equates abortion to genocide is supporting the creation of a student club at Clark College, but hasn’t been successful because no faculty members have agreed to advise the group.
As a result, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform postponed an on-campus event, the “Genocide Awareness Project,” set for Oct. 11 and 12. Director Kevin Oliver said the seven faculty members his organization approached turned down a request to serve as the adviser. Three of them voiced strong opposition to the club’s anti-abortion position, he said.
CBR’s website, AbortionNo.org, describes the Genocide Awareness Project as a mobile exhibit that displays large pictures of aborted fetuses alongside pictures of Holocaust victims.
John Guiher, the president of Clark’s Students for Life club, said his group is not associated with CBR and they are working to convince CBR not to come to Clark.
“This display builds walls of tension between those that need help and support and those that say they ‘stand for life,’” Guiher said. “I think this display will further emotionally damage post-abortive women. We want nothing to do with this group.”
Oliver founded the center in 1990 as a privately funded non-profit educational corporation. He said 10 Clark students have signed a petition to charter a student club, as required by the college.
Oliver emailed college President Bob Knight on Oct. 9 declaring the event postponed and saying the requirement for a faculty adviser is an “unreasonable impediment” and a “burden.”
“Faculty intransigence is not a legitimate ground for quashing students’ ability to exercise their collective expressive rights,” Oliver wrote.
In the email, Oliver said that if the club cannot find an advisor by Nov. 1 the center will ask the school to waive the requirement. Oliver said the CBR will seek judicial review if the requirement isn’t lifted.
However, Clark Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson said the college does not require a group to be sponsored or chartered to hold a public event in the free speech area near the chime tower outside of Cannel Library.
Williamson said Oliver’s group was invited to complete an application to conduct a “First Amendment” activity but that no one from CBR did so.
In an email to students last week, Williamson said the campus is a “limited public forum” that can control when and where First Amendment events happen but not what ideas they share, provided the events do not threaten the educational environment.
CBR has been touring the country to display their project at colleges since 1997. Williamson said that CBR usually goes to larger campuses and four-year schools. “I’m surprised they would come to a community college when PSU is right across the river.”
ASCC Club Coordinator Jordan Hamilton said the stated purpose listed on the club’s application was focused on historical and cultural genocide, not abortion.
As for the threat of judicial review, Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden said “this sort of thing happens more than you would like to know.” If the center does seek judicial review, he said the matter would be passed off to assistant attorney general, Jennifer Mankowski-Dixon.
CBR has visited a variety of schools in the past 20 years, including Portland State University in 2008. They’re visiting PSU again on Oct. 16 and 17 and visited Evergreen College on Oct. 9 and 10.