On October 17, University of Chicago students and staff smudged chalk, plucked flags, and stole signs in response to a campus pro-life display. Some students also anonymously encouraged physical battery against their pro-life peers on the messaging platform Sidechat.
For National Chalking Day, the UChicago Students for Life chapter set up, with permission from the university, a display to represent the 1,699 abortions committed daily. The 1,000 flags and two informative signs took up a small portion of the main quadrangle and were meant to show the human cost of abortion.
“It is a physical reminder of the horrors wrought on thousands of children daily in this country. We hope this will inspire a discussion on our campus and encourage people to value and fight for life,” Kevin Flores, a Students for Life board member, told the Thinker.
Before classes even started, members of the community, who appeared to be staff or faculty, angrily scrapped at the message, “Choose Love, Choose Life.” The woman in the video below targeted “Life” in the phrase.
“The word ‘life’ is powerful and is a right all of us have, even the unborn. She was sending a message that she doesn’t value all human life and was opting to promote a culture that celebrates death,” said Steve Vilchez, a second year in the College and a board member of the Students for Life chapter.
Throughout the day, the display and chalk endured continual abuse.
From left to right the messages used to read “Choose Love, Choose Life,” “Abortion Kills 1,699 Lives Per Day,” “Love Women, Love Babies,” “Love Them Both,” “A Person’s A Person No Matter How Small,” and “Speak Up For the Unborn.”
One apparent faculty member and another apparent Ph.D. candidate opposed the university-approved display.
The negative campus response transcended the display’s physical location and appeared on the social media platform Sidechat. Students anonymously posted hateful and threatening messages on the platform, promoting physical violence toward students with pro-life views and joking about self-harm.
The post, “can someone punch the guy at the pro life table in reynolds,” comes close to qualifying as an assault under Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/12-1.
By contrast, the considerably more innocuous and indisputably legal statement, “Mass infanticide is so unbelievably evil,” was taken down for violating Sidechat’s “community guidelines.” However, presumably, because UChicago students spuriously reported the statement, its author was banned from any Sidechat post for 48 hours.
The Thinker has sent emails to the respective staff and student body formally recognized on video and is awaiting responses accordingly.
Paying Lip Service to Free Speech?
If campus free speech merely means not being formally punished for saying something unpopular, then UChicago’s inaction would align with that. But actual “open discourse” and “free, robust, and uninhibited debate” on campus require more: students will not fully express themselves if it means risking social ostracization from classmates, grade penalties from graduate teaching assistants, or harassment from random campus strangers.
The UChicago community seemingly fails to demonstrate any respect or regard for “free expression” when it comes to pro-life students. It appears the first step to open discourse on campus is to chase these middle-aged university bureaucrats, professors, and disgruntled students away from sidewalk chalk and threatening little flags.
Other photographed instances of negative reactions are captured below:
An angry student flipping off a pro-life supporter.
Two students moments after dumping water on the sidewalk messaging.
UChicago community member who threw the sign on the ground (seen in the bottom left of the picture).
Kenzi Bustamante is a third-year in the College studying Biology and Public Policy. Her Christian faith encourages her to balance truth and grace in everything she does. She grew up in rural Missouri and has enjoyed broadening her cultural knowledge through language and study-abroad programs at the University of Chicago.