All groups deserve voice in parade


Campus Women’S Coalition

We are very disappointed in the way the Hobo Day parade debacle has been reframed since The Collegian first published its article on October 25. In that issue, both the headline story and the editorial board clearly denounced the fact that “Political candidates and campus groups [had] received conflicting instructions about Hobo Day parade participation.” Since then, subsequent stories and editorials have reframed the debate as an undemocratic silencing of pro-life groups.

The problem on that Saturday morning had nothing to do with underhanded liberals and “enraged professors” seeking to silence Brookings Right to Life and Jacks for Life. The problem, as first pointed out by The Collegian, was the obvious inability or unwillingness on the part of parade officials to enforce their own policy consistently.

Rule #4 under “Special Entries” in the parade policy states, “Any group whose entry advocates a specific societal issue will not be allowed to participate in the parade (i.e., gambling, pro-choice/pro-life, etc.).” The rules could not be any clearer – the committee even gave the pro-choice/pro-life issue as an example!

Accordingly, on Friday morning, Campus Women’s Coalition was told by Sarah French that we could not state that we were “students for choice.” In fact, the word “choice” could not appear anywhere on our float or our buttons/stickers (the committee stated that “life/choice” were loaded terms in the abortion debate). However, it was decided later that day that Jacks for Life and Brookings Right to Life could participate in the parade using those terms.

This selective censorship is what outraged a professor and led him to insist that censorship be applied evenly. Whatever the intentions of these two groups – getting out their message or showing school spirit – their very names and purposes DO violate the rigid rules established by the committee. The simple truth is that if the Hobo Day Committee had enforced its policy, which explicitly states that groups advocating a pro-life/pro-choice stance will not be allowed to participate, neither of those groups would have been allowed in the parade. This was neither our choice nor our wish; this was parade policy.

Let us be clear. We categorically disagree(d) with the policy. Our first request, both to Sarah French on Friday and to an official on Saturday, simply was to allow these groups to participate and to allow us to state our pro-choice stance. Both times that request was denied.

We sincerely hope that the UPC and the Hobo Day Committee change these rules. At an academic institution, we should be encouraging the free exchange of ideas and information, not prohibiting it. And yes, while we would like to live in a world free of divisive political issues where we could uncomplicatedly celebrate our school spirit, the fact of the matter is that we do not.

Within our own institutional walls, and certainly outside the academy’s doors, lie issues and stances that must be dealt with by the electorate. No one’s best interests are served by censoring groups – or papering over words – that we may find difficult and controversial.

Heath Alsgaard is a member, Catherine Grandorff is the vice-president, Brittany Henderson is the public relations officer, and Krystal Lynne is the president of Campus Women’s Coalition.