USD’s pro-life and pro-choice student organizations traded messages on campus sidewalks on Thursday.
Yotes For Life (YFL), a pro-life student organization at USD, chalked anti-abortion messages on campus sidewalks yesterday afternoon. Hours later, Students for Reproductive Rights (SFRR) responded with chalkings underneath YFL’s messages.
YFL, responding to The Volante’s query for confirmation that the chalkings belonged to them, released a statement claiming “the pro-choice club” (SFRR) erased a pro-life message outside North Complex:
“While we expected the chalking to start a discussion on the issue of abortion, we were shocked to see that the chalking endorsed by the pro-choice club on campus was accompanied with their attempts to remove our chalk from the sidewalks. Yotes for Life believes that everyone has free speech rights regardless of political opinion. We are saddened to see that our counterparts on campus do not feel the same way. We call on USD President Sheila Gestring and the Student Government Association to stand up for students’ rights to free speech and take public action.”
SFRR denied erasing any messages from YFL in a statement to The Volante:
“The goal of Students For Reproductive Rights’ (SFRR) chalkings last night was to provide information for both sides of the abortion debate…. We believe that an open dialogue and respectful discourse about competing viewpoints are at the heart of democracy: any act of chalking over or defacing the YFL work be in direct contradiction to the values our organization holds to its core… Erasing their chalk hinders the process of democracy and impedes on the values of freedom. We do not condone the behaviors regarding the defacing of chalking; however, any student actions outside the purview of SFRR cannot be reciprocated as the actions of the organization.”
Along with the statement, SFRR sent a picture of one of their chalked responses, along with YFL’s original message, that had been erased.
Article 1:32 of the South Dakota Board of Regents policy manual states members of an institution’s community are “free to criticize and contest” any views expressed on campus, but may not “interfere or with the conduct of the institutions or the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
Both organizations said they are unaware of who erased the messages, and oppose the erasure of any type of speech.