Students for Life campus banners cause controversy

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.

14 replies
  1. Annoyed Alumni
    Annoyed Alumni says:

    I am shocked at the level of intolerance shown by some of the comments here that demonize the people putting up these banners. I don’t think these banners were an attempt to shame women into not getting an abortion, but in their view it was a celebration of life. Without getting into another internet ideological argument of whether abortion is wrong or right, I feel that the University should allow ALL students groups the right to express their views without fear of reprisal. Labeling this group a “negative” organization is hypocrisy at its highest level, especially in a place that promotes the celebration of different viewpoints and supposedly places diversity in its highest esteem. You may not agree with someone’s opposing views, but it does should not mean that if someone’s feelings are hurt that they should be able to stifle the views of another. I do not see why the a Pro-Choice group could not have raised money and posted banners expressing their views too. Whatever happened to SC Respect, whatever happened to being civil in disagreement without having to resort to name-calling and ad-hominem attacks?

  2. John
    John says:

    First, the banners did not damage the university image at all. Second, the banners were not officially endorsed. Third, having a different opinion than the author of this article (pro-life vs pro-choice) does not make their banners propaganda. Stop victimizing the pro-life group just because they view it differently and because a poster does not mention maternal health, does not mean the pro-life group does not consider that concern when they decide to be pro-life. You simplified a complex argument with strong points on both sides down to a simple black and white verdict, which is completely inaccurate and baseless. There is nothing wrong with choosing pro-life or pro-choice. I am pro-life and that is a personal decision of mine.

  3. SC5T
    SC5T says:

    The entire thing was done in error. USC refunded the money (do you know how hard it is to get any kind of refund from USC?!?). Why is this still an issue? Nobody is being “censored” – the group is free to continue tabling on campus. This is now about bullying from the Pro-lifers.

    I side with the university on this. These banners have no place on campus. The complaints about the Black History Month banners and Gay Pride banners being allowed to stay is hilarious – as if celebrating peoples who have been (and still are) historically oppressed is such a bad thing: “waaaah the darkies and the queers get banners but our banners that link to webpages that spout inaccurate medical information don’t get them waaaah!!!” Plus, were those banners NOT endorsed by the university? I didn’t know USC joining the rest of LA in Celebration of Pride or recognizing Black History month was such a “polarizing” thing. You go to school in Los Angeles, if you don’t like that those groups are given recognition you are more than welcome to transfer to Bob Jones University with like minded people.

    Which brings me to my other point: these banners featured websites that are led by Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which Los Angeles Pregnancy Services is. If you know anything about these organizations, they make it their mission to talk people OUT of abortions with medically inaccurate information. These organizations claim abortion causes breast cancer, causes its own “syndrome” and say contraceptives cause abortions – accusations that every reputable medical society has debunked time and time again. USC is a research institution with a very advanced medical school – for the university to allow those banners to stay up would be a slap in the face to every individual who is involved with growing USC’s medical school into an even more prestigious institution.

    Finally, they got their money back. Instead of trying to bully USC into putting up these banners, why not use that money and make sure that people get access to reliable contraceptives and comprehensive sexual education? You know, things that actually reduce the numbers of abortions.

    Oh yeah. Because those are things that might actually help people.

  4. klester
    klester says:

    I am offended that people are comparing
    this organization to inclusive, positive organizations like Pride
    groups. This is about shaming and control and has nothing to do with
    concern about unborn lives. If these people truly cared about unborn
    children at risk of abortion, they would consider the data that shows
    that most women make such decisions for financial reasons. Women who
    see no way to feed a child when they can barely support themselves,
    or who know that having a child will lock them into a cycle of
    poverty that they are very unlikely to ever escape. Instead these are
    the same people who consistently vote to limit the safety nets that
    would ensure such children have food or that their mothers have
    access to opportunity that might lift their families out of poverty,
    like education. Instead poor single mothers are criminalized and
    socially shamed with drug-testing for aid, draconian requirements to
    qualify for help and a complete loss of respect within the system.

    • Benjamin Roberts
      Benjamin Roberts says:

      A woman SHOULD be shamed for getting pregnant when she can not afford it and can see no way to feed it when “they can barely support themselves”, as in the example you cite!!! Such an outrage. Nobody simply “gets pregnant”. Life is full of choices, large and small. As I’ve said many time before, a little more focus on “responsibilities” instead of “rights” would do this world a lot of good.

      • klester
        klester says:

        I respect many different points of view, just not yours and that is my right. I disagree with you completely that the world would be a better place in any way without a focus on our rights as Americans and as human beings. You don’t agree with me and you definitely don’t respect my point of view, so maybe you need a little more maturity, not I. My point doesn’t change. We no longer live in a the world of the scarlet letter no matter how much you would like to bring it back. Birth control is a complex issue that includes forces of economics, gender, and education and if you really cared about making constructive changes you would look there rather than shame which has never and will never work.

        • Benjamin Roberts
          Benjamin Roberts says:

          Don’t kid yourself. You do NOT respect many different points of view. You believe as firmly in your position as I do in mine. We are each entitled to our opinion. The difference between us is that I affirm your right to hold and promote yours, whereas you wish to silence my right to the same. (I also proudly take ownership of my opinions, by posting them with my name visible.) For these reasons and more, I see little reason to acknowledge you (whoever you are) or your opinion with further comment.

          • klester
            klester says:

            1. That’s my name, bringing into question who I am doesn’t change my position.
            2. My opinions are constantly evolving based on fact and truth and I am happy to listen to and consider any position that comes from that place.
            3. I don’t agree that you or anyone has the right to disseminate inaccurate information to try to control other people’s lives.
            4. You will get no further comment from me, not because I question your identity, but because I’ve looked at a few of your other comments and you’re just kind of mean and mad. Nothing I say is going to change that. I’m sorry other people’s lives bother you so much. That’s a long road to walk.

  5. Benjamin Roberts
    Benjamin Roberts says:

    Yeah, I’m a proud Trojan who loves USC… but there definitely appears to be a double-standard here. The stated policy that banners on Trousdale must identify an “academic program, department or event” appears to be enforced selectively. It seems clear that these banners represented the baby shower event on campus, and were approved accordingly UNTIL a certain segment of the University community became upset… only after which they were removed. So is this the real policy? See how people feel and then decide if banners stay or go? And so what if people didn’t like the banners or felt uncomfortable or “isolated”?! I thought our universities were supposed to protect the reasonable free expression of ideas and thought. Pro-Choice advocates never seem to care that pro-life advocates are disturbed at ghastly techniques approved and used to kill unwanted and unborn babies. So it really shouldn’t matter what side you are on if you want to protect the free expression of ideas and debate.

    By the way, it’s time we return words like “shame”, “regret” and “fear” to our vocabulary. Our modern society seems to think these words and feelings are unacceptable when in fact they are important and natural indicators that humans do in fact have a conscience. If we feel afraid, ashamed, isolated or regretful, we should reach deep inside for an honest and objective look into why we are experiencing such feelings… rather than looking outwardly simply to quash that which caused the discomfort.

  6. OhioRaider
    OhioRaider says:

    Thankfully, our wonderful school is no longer a bastion for your father’s hoary right wing views. Bully for us! Fight on!

    • Matthew
      Matthew says:

      My father’s an old Asian mailman. What makes you think he has any elaborate American right-wing views…? -_-

      • OhioRaider
        OhioRaider says:

        Eh, my comment was not directed at you, Matthew. Was a general observation about how far the university has come.

  7. JT4SC
    JT4SC says:

    USC taking down these banners, while allowing gay pride banners to stay up for 2 weeks, is incredibly sad.

    Mathew: the DT always interviews students – it is, after all, a student newspaper…

  8. Matthew
    Matthew says:

    This article is written in the same calibre as from The Office. I do not understand how a 20-year-old kid is presented as credible opinion on this matter. For shame USC, I can’t believe I gave you guys $50,000 a year for four years when when I went here…

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