Opinions can be heard, but not always funded
Last week, Student Senate rejected a lecture from university funding because the lecture was politically biased. The Carnegie Mellon Respect Life Club, a pro-life student group, requested Senate funding for Serrin Foster, the president of Feminists For Life, a national organization that speaks out against abortion. While the group claimed that the speaker would present both sides, the fact remains that both the sponsoring and speaker’s organization were from the single pro-life mindset.
The Respect Life Club hoped to go also to the Graduate Student Assembly for help, yet did not once undergraduate Student Senate denied its request.
Senate’s decision sent the right message in that such specialized, opinionated groups cannot hope for university funding in their lectures. Student Senate is being responsible by not allocating a portion of the student activities fee that all students pay toward events that would be heavily politically, religiously, or culturally biased and that could offend a significant portion of the student body, or at least alienate them.
The Respect Life Club has mobilized on campus since the beginning of this year as a means for pro-life students to express their opinions. They have shown their viewpoint when they handed out over 800 free “cupcakes for life” in late October and constructed a symbolic graveyard of abortion deaths placed strategically next to the Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama table on Election Day.
Groups such as the Respect Life Club should be encouraged on campus — they show a passionate viewpoint on important political and social issues. But they should recognize the limits of their views and not push for funding that is meant for activities that all students, regardless of viewpoints, can enjoy. If the lecture had been a panel with both pro-life and pro-choice representatives, for example, there may have been a basis for funding. However, a lecture given by a representative of Feminists For Life must be funded out of the group’s own initiative. Just like opinionated groups, strong, passionate lectures are also extremely important to our campus — although they are simply not for the university to fund, but rather for the organization to find money for on its own.
This student organization needs to not try to do too much too fast. If bringing in a $3000 speaker is beyond its current means, it is irresponsible to bring her to campus and to subsequently petition for money from groups that are intended to support unbiased events.