BY GRACE ROGERS
What happens when two organizations on campus directly oppose each other? That was the issue Drake University faced last week after a tabling campaign, put on by Drake Students for Life, the campus’s pro-life organization.
Students for Life set up an informative table and display outside of Hubbell Dining Hall to inform students about their side of the issue of abortion.
“Tabling is a quick and easy way to reach many students on campus,” said senior Cassandra Aerts, president of Drake Students for Life, in an email. “The main purpose was to spread awareness to students so that they know our group is on campus, since we just started up this year.”
The group also brought in an outside speaker to help with their tabling.
“Reagan Nielsen is the regional coordinator for the national Students for Life Organization,” Aerts said. “She had an educational display about Planned Parenthood that she wanted to share with our campus, and we agreed that it would be a good display to have.”
The display covered many topics relating to Planned Parenthood, including the recent controversial videos released by the Center for Medical Progress.
The videos allege that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue and body parts to research organizations for a profit. A large debate about the accuracy and legitimacy of the videos ensued.
“Obviously, Voice of Choice works closely with Planned Parenthood, so to see that Students for Life claimed they betrayed women was frustrating,” said junior Taylor Eisenhauer, president of Drake Voice of Choice. “We don’t agree, and that’s okay. But the fact that they were blatantly saying things that weren’t true was very frustrating. Not a single state investigation found that Planned Parenthood mishandled any fetal tissues.”
Voice of Choice is an organization meant to promote reproductive health and justice issues.
Although Voice of Choice was frustrated with the content of what Students for Life was sharing, Director of Student Engagement Equity and Inclusion Tony Tyler explains that the university allows for completely open dialogue on all sides of any issue.
“It’s important to allow a free exchange of ideas, especially on a college campus,” Tyler said. “It’s the core of who we are as a university. We try very hard not to regulate the content of what organizations are saying, but rather to handle logistical issues.”
“When it comes to the element of the actual content of what they’re saying, it gets more difficult,” Tyler said. “Our society hasn’t come to a definitive answer on this particular issue. Drake is a product of our society in that way – our campus reflects that. There’s an element of trying to create space for the dialogue to happen, and our students are doing an excellent job at facilitating this conversation on both sides.”
Aert decided to start Student for Life to encourage this dialogue.
“There was not a Students for Life group on campus for years,” “So a friend and I started it last April. We’ve been active on campus ever since. When there are two sides to an issue, it’s always important that each side has a voice.”
“This is an important discussion,” agreed Eisenhauer. “We want Drake students to be able to make an informed choice.”
It is rare that two student organizations oppose each other so directly on campus, but the university has a policy in place to ensure all organizations beliefs are given the opportunity to be represented. .
“We attempt to have a standardized process that any student organization engages in as far as having events, doing tabling, those sorts of things,” said Tyler. “And we do our best to make those processes as similar for every student organization as possible. With each side of a potentially charged issue, we allow free access for those organizations to table and express their opinions and their thoughts.”
Both groups understand that this is a difficult conversation.
“We recognize it is a controversial issue, so we are trying to make sure both sides have a voice,” Aerts said. “Since it’s a controversial issue, there will always be strong opinions and reactions surrounding the subject. We aim to create an environment where peaceful and thoughtful conversations can happen.”
“Our concern is not that Drake Students for Life exists on campus,” Eisenhauer said. “They have the same rights to spread information as we do. We want to create a space in which Drake students can consider accurate information and make an informed decision for themselves.”
However, from the administration’s perspective, this discussion happened just the way that they would like.
“This discussion seemed very civil, it seemed very developmental, it seemed like people along the spectrum on this issue were being challenged and had to delve more deeply into their thoughts,” said Tyler. “Absolutely, at times, emotions were heightened and I think that’s totally normal, especially around this topic. I had conversations with students from both organizations throughout the day, and they seemed to keep this discussion centered in civility and respect. I don’t think you could ask for much better than that around a difficult topic like this.”
Taylor Eisenhauer is a member of the Times-Delphic staff as a paid copy editor. Eisenhauer had no editorial oversight in the content of this article.