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Is WWU censoring pro-life group’s chalk messages?

Western Washington University in Bellingham ranked among the country's most liberal universities. (Nicole Jennings, KIRO Radio)

Government censorship of free speech has been the subject of countless dystopian books and movies.

But a group of students at Bellingham’s Western Washington University — one of the state’s public universities — believes that for them, government censorship may be reality.

Karlie Lodjic, president of WWU Students for Life, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that last week, the group chalked peaceful pro-life messages such as, “Love them both,” “Abortion hurts women,” “Adoption not abortion,” “We support pregnant students,” and, “We support parenting students” on the ground of Red Square, the university’s central hub.

Writing messages on the grounds of the university in chalk is commonplace at the school. Notes from different clubs and organizations can be seen on the brick walkways all around campus.

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In addition to the chalk writings, Students for Life stood in the square handing out information for pregnant and parenting students.

As shown in a video, another group of Western students took traffic cones, filled them with water, and dumped the water all over the chalk writings, washing away the messages. When confronted, the water-sprayers said that they found the messages offensive.

“They told us that anything that is associated with our club, even if it was a resource helping pregnant women, wouldn’t be good just because it was associated with us,” Lodjic said.

Students for Life waited until the campus hustle and bustle died down, and then, at 10:30 p.m., “came back and rechalked the entire campus,” Lodjic said.

These chalk writings did not last long either. This time, however, it was a university employee with a power washer who washed off the messages. He told Students for Life that WWU had ordered the messages to be wiped away, and guessed that the reason may be that they were “too provocative.”

Lodjic noted that no other club’s messages disappeared that night. She worries that if the university is singling out one group’s speech and limiting that speech, this could set a precedent of government oppressing free speech.

Lodjic emailed the WWU club coordinator, who said that the entire incident may have been a misunderstanding and another club’s messages may have been the target. She said that she would get back to Lodjic, but reportedly never did. Campus police have also not returned Lodjic’s emails.

 

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