Free Speech at University of Auckland Vindicated
Media Release: ProLife Auckland
Date: 18 July 2012
Free Speech at University of Auckland Vindicated by Student Body
Freedom of speech was vindicated today at the University of Auckland, as the student body voted to defend student club ProLife Auckland's ability to be affiliated to the Auckland University Student Association (AUSA).
All members of the AUSA had been invited to attend a Special General Meeting to determine the status of the club. The AUSA’s executive had called the meeting to put forward a motion that ProLife Auckland should be denied the right to exist as an affiliated club.
Predictably enough, the motion was soundly defeated.
President of ProLife Auckland, philosophy student Amy Blowers, said it was heartening to be vindicated by the wider student body. “We had support from many students who are not members of our club and have no intention of joining. But clearly they recognised that freedom of expression is a right worth protecting for everyone, in particular in a university setting where academic freedom must be paramount”.
The Special General Meeting had been called by the AUSA executive on the basis of a single anonymous complaint received in relation to a pamphlet called ‘Right to Know’, which the club’s members had distributed on campus. The pamphlet advocated for the right of women to know about health risks associated with abortion and the alternatives available to them, so that they can make truly informed decisions when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.
The campaign pamphlet was also distributed by other ProLife New Zealand clubs at universities across the country and contained a link to a webpage with further information and resources. The information in the pamphlet came from a selection of peer-reviewed academic studies conducted in New Zealand and overseas in recent years. The medical statements made in the pamphlet were supported by footnote references to reputable medical journals.
ProLife Auckland and its many supporters had been surprised that AUSA’s response to the matter had not included the obvious step of informing the club that a complaint had been received. The club believes that denying them the right to make any kind of response to the complaint was inconsistent with the principles of natural justice.
Ms Blowers says the club is very pleased with today’s result for a number of reasons. “Ironically, this attempt to shut us down has given us the chance to reach a far wider audience with our message, and that’s the whole reason that we exist as a club.”