Earlier this week, light posts on Trousdale Parkway were adorned with banners depicting pregnant women and developing fetuses. The banners sported phrases including “Fatherhood begins in the womb” and “Life is a beauty — admire it.”
The banners were taken down within hours of being installed. The display caused controversy on campus, as did their removal.
USC Students for Life, a pro-life group on campus, funded the creation of the banners and said they went through the proper channels to seek approval before displaying them on Trousdale.
Assistant Provost for Student Engagement Monique Allard said in a statement that Trojan Event Services, a unit of Student Affairs, approved the request for installation in error. University policy stipulates that banners on Trousdale may only be mounted on Trousdale if the banners identify an academic program, department or event specifically. The pro-life banners did not.
USC Students for Life founder Lisa Ebiner Gavit said the banners were intended as a “celebration of life” and to serve as a complement to the club’s final event of the semester, an on-campus baby shower to benefit the Los Angeles Pregnancy Resource Center.
“We wanted to show the beauty and value of the unborn child,” Gavit said. “We wanted to show pregnant women that abortion is not their only option. We wanted to show men that they have a role to play in fighting for the life of their child. We knew the banners would be controversial, but they are true.”
She said the organization raised $3,100 over eight months to pay for the banner creation and image rights, including $950 for installation and removal of the banners. The banners were intended to stay up for two weeks.
In her statement, Allard said USC will reimburse the group for the full cost of producing and installing the banners. Though Gavit sees the university’s removal of the banners as a restriction of free speech, Austin Roy, a sophomore studying cognitive science, disagrees.
After seeing the banners on Tuesday, Roy made his own sign reading, “Women deserve the right to choose,” and posted it beneath the pro-life banners.
“I think that USC, by taking down the banners, is trying to protect its students,” Roy said. “They’re not prohibiting this group from having a table on Trousdale or talking to students or from making posters, but these banners hold an official place at USC and [the university] should decide what is on them.”
Roy said that his goal in creating new signs was to accomodate those who were in disagreement with the banners.
“I saw the banners and I thought that they could very easily make individuals on the USC campus feel isolated and demonized,” he said. “I thought I would make a sign letting those individuals know that they’re not wrong, that they are accepted and that they are just as much a part of the Trojan family as anyone else in the USC community.”
Roy said that though he is pro-choice, he doesn’t think any group tackling a controversial issue should post banners on Trousdale because the university should not appear to take a stance that would polarize a portion of its student body. He said the university is taking positive steps by reimbursing the group.
In her statement, Allard said that the university respects students’ right to free speech.
“The university is a diverse community based on the free exchange of ideas, and we encourage free inquiry and discussion,” she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Students for Life’s final event of the semester would be a baby shower at the Los Angeles Pregnancy Resource Center. The baby shower will actually take place on campus to benefit the center. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.