TRENTON, NJ and FREDERICKSBURG, VA (4-16-18)–
On Thursday, April 12, around 1 pm, TCNJ Students for Life had their flag display vandalized. The display had been put up the day before. The flag display was put up to commemorate lives lost to abortion and is formally called the Graveyard of the Innocent. The group had reserved the space for putting up their display through Monday.
In response to the vandalism, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America said, “The vandalism at TCNJ is further proof that some students on college campuses cannot even fathom the idea that other people have free-speech rights. Despite the vandalism, TCNJ Students for Life are not letting this deter them from continuing to promote a culture of life on campus.”
Grace Gottschling, vice-president of the group added, “We respect students’ right to free speech and we would also like our right to free speech to be honored. Our flag display was up for less than 24 hours and during that time there were at least six attempts of vandalism that we know of. Our 1st Amendment Rights were ignored and our beliefs belittled. Our group remains confident in our beliefs and we will have more Graveyard of the Innocent displays in the future.”
At least some of the vandals appear to be members of the LGBT group PRISM on campus, as students can be heard discussing going to the PRISM Center to retrieve flags to counter-protest another, unrelated group that was on campus. For example, Courtney Woods, the vice-president of PRISM can be seen in the video.
Other students could be seen discussing the flag display on Twitter, although it is not clear that those who tweeted about it actually removed the flags.
Andrew Fenwick, the president of PRISM told Students for Life of America in response to an e-mail inquiry, “It disheartens me to hear what happened to the Student for Life Display. However, the actions of this individual PRISM member do not represent the intent of the organization as a whole, nor was this action in any way encouraged or planned by PRISM. The sole function of PRISM is to provide programs for TCNJ’s campus at large and to provide a safe space for self-identified people of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The university’s Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct and Dispute Resolution Services will be meeting with Students for Life this week. A spokesman for the university added, “The College of New Jersey respects and welcomes a diversity of opinions on campus, which is why the Students for Life Group received permission for their flag display from our division of Student Affairs. There will be a formal discussion with all parties involved to determine what next steps are appropriate.”
TCNJ Students for Life has identified the students responsible for the theft. Video of the vandalism has been turned over to campus police.
Without irony, many of the same students put up this flag display on Friday, April 13th, although it has since been removed by the university, since the space was already reserved by Students for Life.
For interviews or follow-up questions, please contact Kristi Hamrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA, Students for Life has over 1200 groups on college and high school campuses.