The following is the opinion of the editorial board.
As the majority reading this will be aware, third-year Seth Gruber recently demonstrated in an utterly inappropriate manner against abortion on campus. The Tuesday demonstration outside the Dining Commons included graphic images of aborted fetuses. It was intentionally shocking, provocative and inflammatory. The editorial board condemns Gruber’s decision to use graphic photos in a misguided attempt to convince students to adopt his own viewpoint.
The Horizon’s editorial board affirms that the principles of freedom of speech and thought should be upheld on campus. However, while Gruber has the freedom to express whatever opinion he pleases, he has a responsibility to deal with the consequences of his public demonstration. When public speech crosses the line, becoming offensive and destructive to the community, we can and will condemn it.
We question what Gruber hoped to accomplish by displaying these signs on an overwhelmingly pro-life campus. If he hoped to draw attention to the issue of abortion, he will be dismayed to learn that the debate triggered on campus by his demonstration does not revolve around abortion. Rather, it revolves around Gruber and the appropriateness of his actions.
The signs used were printed by the ambiguously-named Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, where Gruber works. We do not know whether the Center endorsed this particular demonstration. This organization specializes in “public education,” which is to say they specialize in the types of demonstrations our student body observed on Tuesday.
A centerpiece of the organization’s argument is the assertion that abortion is the modern day equivalent to the Holocaust. While Gruber may not endorse the organization’s implicit comparison of abortion-supporters to Nazis, he used their signs in this demonstration.
His actions were utterly inappropriate for any public forum that aims at a full and substantive debate on the moral question of abortion. The reality, whether pro-life activists wish to acknowledge it or not, is that reasonable people disagree over the morality of abortion. These kind of demonstrations dehumanize, bully and condemn those they disagree with; this method of communication creates an unhealthy environment for conflict and debate.
Let’s look at a more effective method of approaching the abortion issue. In April of 2011, Gruber himself helped organize the Westmont-approved event “Abortion: Right or Wrong,” which featured a debate between Scott Klusendorf (pro-life) and Nadine Strossen (pro-choice). It was followed by a question and answer session, allowing students to participate and encounter different perspectives. We know Gruber is capable of better, and we will hold him to that higher standard.
Gruber’s actions did not just undermine the fabric of civil debate on campus; they were destructive to the community Westmont strives to maintain. On a campus of this size, no matter how pro-life it may lean in its political views, statistically at least one or two people have had an abortion. Did Gruber’s demonstration take this damage to the community into account, or consider the effect these images would have on those individuals?
We encourage the College to disavow these actions. We encourage those affected to remember that Gruber’s opinion is not the opinion of Westmont College or of the student body. Finally, we encourage the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and Gruber to keep explicit demonstrations like this off our campus and consider more productive avenues of sparking conversation and change.