A WKU Alumni: Crosses and Condoms

When a friend sent me photos of the anti-abortion display on the Collonades at WKU, I was flabbergasted. Who the hell do these people think they are? I asked myself. I told my friend that she should cover their sign with one that said “Each cross represents a woman who was free to make her own choice” or “This is how many women will die each day if totalitarians succeed in taking away safe, legal abortion.”

I also wondered just what were these anti-choicers thinking, completely taking over a very popular gathering space for students, for an entire week. People drink coffee, study, or just soak in the sun on the Collonades. Nor is it unusual for professors to hold classes there on a nice day.

The Collonades are one of the beautiful architectural landmarks of Western. It is also affixed to the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts building, which houses the Art, Theater, Music, and Language departments.

Let me tell you something. If you believe that this ridiculous little Hilltoppers for Life group didn’t pull this stunt not merely expecting a reaction, but hoping for one, then you are a fool. Western Kentucky University has a proud history of activism. Students are very involved on this campus. Students were not going to let this stand without responding. Frankly? I was expecting more. If this had happened in my time, there would have been much more than a few condoms draped over crude popsicle stick crosses.

During the weekdays, they set up tables, along with boards. They wanted discussion. They wanted students to share their thoughts. Elaina Smith did just that. Like I said, they set up in front of the Fine Arts building. They expected some kind of art display. They expected a response, so they could throw a hissy fit. As Dr. Molly Kerby pointed out in her brilliant response to this hissy fit, the anti-choicers set up the crosses to spell out “life” on the bleachers, which could only be seen from the windows of the art department. This was provocation. This was a challenge. In my day, many, many more students would have taken up that challenge. Including me.

Now look. They’re calling for Elaina Smith to be arrested. They’re calling for the university to force her professor to give her a failing grade.

They want the police to violate Elaina’s first amendment rights to free speech.

They want the university to violate the academic freedom of their faculty.

It’s absolutely outrageous, but entirely consistent with their primary goal of calling for the government to forcibly violate a woman’s right to control her own body.

Hilltoppers for Life is no different from the man dubbed “Preacher Man” that occasionally visits campus. If you’re unfamiliar, Preacher Man sets up behind the university center during the day, insulting and provoking students in the name of the Christian god. The more students engage this man, the more insulting he gets. Meanwhile, his companion circulates throughout the crowd with a camera, snapping photos of the students who engage with Preacher Man. This man hopes to provoke the students into assaulting him, so that he may sue the student and the university. And, of course, claim martyrdom for himself and his religion.

These fools kept someone hidden at the Collonades each night, hoping to catch someone doing something to their display, so that they could claim martyrdom for themselves. Did you notice that when Elaina showed up to place her condoms, Hilltoppers for Life member, Matt Sohl, called the Students for Life for America before he called the police? Apparently their parent organization failed to instruct them properly.

(Did these student plan to skip class the next day? Or show up exhausted and unable to participate properly in their classes?)

If you still doubt that their goal was for someone to mess with their display, let me tell you something else about Western Kentucky University. Students interact with campus art on a regular basis. There is a statue of Sergeant Guthrie, in front of the Guthrie belltower, his right hand uplifted, and cupped just so. Students regularly put items in the statue’s hand. Coffee cups, bananas, ice cream cones, to name just a few. Behind McLean Hall, there is a statue of a woman, mid-stride. She is regularly dressed up with hats, scarves, and dresses. The wooden bunny, beside Garrett, is regularly dressed up as well. The students aren’t the only ones who do this–the university participates in this pastime. The abstract art affectionately dubbed the “Big Red Vagina” had bushes planted around it last time I visited campus. And I’m sorry, but that was not a coincidence.

It is shameful that President Gary Ransdell has condemned Elaina. She is a student–participating in a campus pastime, exercising her right to free speech and self-expression, and creatively completing a class project. Aside from the Hilltoppers for Life, this people crying foul are not part of WKU’s community. They all, including HFL, are part of an organized effort to curtail other people’s rights, creating controversy and provoking others to reaction. Garbear, as an alumni, I am ashamed that you are not standing by a fellow Hilltopper. I am ashamed that you, blinded as you are by your desire for good PR, turned your back on the students and faculty, falling hook, line, and sinker for their manufactured martyrdom.

Today, as a Hilltopper, I am ashamed, President Gary Ransdell, that you represent my university. I am proud, Hilltoppers for “Life” excepted, of the students and faculty. I am proud of Elaina. I am proud of Dr. Molly Kerby for taking a public stand for student’s right to free speech, and academic freedom. (Though, of course, I expected nothing less from Dr. Kerby. She is a fantastic person.)

I expect SGA to pass a resolution on Tuesday, supporting Elaina Smith, and condemning HTL and President Ransdell’s efforts to silence and punish students for expressing themselves.

I expect the Faculty Senate to rally as well, supporting their colleague’s right to grade her student’s work as she sees fit.

I expect the campus community to stand up, and call this manufactured outrage for what it is: an attack on freedom.

About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for LouisvilleKY.com and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

11 Responses to A WKU Alumni: Crosses and Condoms

  1. LibertarianinLA says:

    Interesting take. Would you likewise support the first amendment rights of those who, upon encountering a university-approved display of birth control methods, left scattered on the display naked Barbies, decapitated Kens and dismembered plastic baby dolls?

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      Lol, do you think you’re being clever? Do you really think I’m going to screech ‘no’ so you can smugly call me a hypocrite?

      I’ll tell you one thing though, if somebody did that, the barbies would be gone by the end of the day-students would take them for trophies.

      Let me ask you a question. Do you think whoever created the birth control display would be watched by whoever created it, to catch on camera whoever left the barbies? Do you think they’d throw a hissy fit? Call a national organization to ask how they should react?

      • LibertarianinLA says:

        Why should anyone who created a university- approved display not be supported in their right to choose to watch their display, to choose to photograph anyone choosing to alter it without their permission, and to choose to call a national organization to report what they consider to be alterations to their display that could potentially be shown to violate their rights to freedom of expression?

        • Brittany-Ann says:

          Why should they? I’ve created many, many displays in my time at WKU. Alterations are part of the deal. Especially, I might add, when you specifically ask for feedback, which they did.

          They don’t need anyone, much less me, to support them in their paranoia and subsequent hissy fit. They do, however, need some assistance in thinking and acting for themselves. Not even the greeks need so much direction from their national organization.

          By the way, feedback, that you asked for, in no way impinges on your right to free speech. The only person’s rights who were violated here were Elaina’s. It’s a damn shame so many people like you exist, who seem to think that you’re the only ones who deserve Constitutional protections.

          • LibertarianinLA says:

            So in your opinion no response to any display would be so inappropriate that it would warrant display creators seeking university penalties for those who altered the display?  What about if, in response to a display condemning forced genital mutilation, an united group of men placed in the display plastic knives covered in red paint with dozens of signs proclaiming, “Feminist whores deserve to be raped?”

          • Brittany-Ann says:

            You’re one of those brainless anti-choicers who constantly compare abortion to the Holocaust, aren’t you? And you cannot even see how offensive you are.

            Your hypothetical men would probably be expelled and arrested for making threats.

            Do yourself a favor. Stop humiliating yourself. You’re not going to trick me into admitting I’m a hypcrite, or okay with violence. Before you comment on my blog again, remember that I have a couple of degrees. Assuming I’m going to fall for this is insulting.

  2. LibertarianinLA says:

    Thank you for again demonstrating that you support the free speech of those who agree with you.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      You have no understanding of free speech. Threats aren’t covered.

      Oh, and go look up “false equivalency” while you’re brushing up on first amendment case law. I’m sure you’ll be back in a couple years, when you’ve finished.

  3. Pingback: Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog

  4. AlexInWonderland says:

    Good to hear the perspective of someone who was there. I suspected there was more to it than what was reported.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      Thank you. I wish I hadn’t taken so long to write about it. The right wing blogosphere has been screeching about this for over a week. Progressives need to know about this.

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