I am writing on behalf of the Zags for Life club in response to the all-campus email sent by Robin Kelly on Oct. 15. On Oct. 4, the Zags for Life club requested to do an event on the Foley Lawn in front of the John J. Hemmingson Center.
This description was given for the event: “a small display of crosses on the field to memorialize those who have lost their life before birth. We will have a table to discuss the issue of abortion with students.”
Gonzaga University officially approved this activity on Zagtivities.
On Oct. 13, the event was carried out by the club as described; specifically, the crosses were representative of the average number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood facilities daily. Members of the Zags for Life club were present from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to engage in respectful dialogue with willing students about the morality of this fact about the prevalence of abortion.
Around midday, another group of students assembled and began yelling at the members of the club and those passing by: “my body, my choice,” “hey hey, ho ho, your backward views have got to go,” “no f****** uterus, no f****** opinion,” and “keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” The shouting, which continued until the end of the event, inhibited discussions with other students passing by. Members of the Zags for Life remained present at the display without shouting in response.
In the all-campus email sent on Oct. 15, Robin Kelley, the university’s chief diversity officer, misrepresented what occurred on Wednesday. Kelley described both the approved Zags for Life display and the activity of the other students as a “demonstration” and “counter demonstration.” On Zagtivities the activity was labeled not as a demonstration, but as a social event for promoting respectful dialogue on this important moral issue.
Kelley’s description of the events on Oct. 13 as a “demonstration” and a “counter demonstration” falsely portrayed what happened on Wednesday to the entire university. It is grossly inaccurate to use the same word “demonstration” to describe the vastly different activities of the two parties involved. We understand that the BIAS cases will take time to resolve and discuss, but in the meantime, for the sake of public knowledge, we ask Kelley, who spoke on behalf of the university and the BIAS response team, to publicly retract and/or clarify the previous email or at least acknowledge this statement of the facts.
The university’s language makes it appear as if Zags for Life did something intentionally to upset our peers or something against the university’s Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic values. It is obvious that those on the opposing side of Bulldog Alley were angry and offended, but they were not provoked by actions or words of the Zags for Life club, but apparently by the display which stated factual pieces of data from Planned Parenthood’s statistics aimed at prompting civil discussion. Kelley’s email was vague in this regard and implied Zags for Life did something wrong or egregious without providing any details. We are fully prepared and eager to defend in great detail how we were acting within university permission and promoting the university’s declared values.
There have been several students vocalizing support through online petitions for the creation of pro-choice and sex education clubs on campus. To be clear, Zags for Life has no authority over such matters. These decisions are in the hands of those responsible for overseeing Catholic education: Bishop Daly and GU.
In closing, the Zags for Life club wants to reaffirm our commitment to women on this campus. We promote health care resources for young families and pregnant women and we never want to shame women who have had abortions. Moreover, no women should ever be punished for having an abortion; nothing in our display made any statement about women who have chosen to have abortions.
We believe in respect for the dignity of every single human person and in encouraging discussion around issues related to human dignity. The unintentionally inaccurate, or else biased, statement from Robin Kelley did public damage to our ability to fulfill our club mission. Therefore, we respectfully request for a public correction and clarification of the email from the university.