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Senate approves pro-life group in contentious meeting

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Photo by Ian Klein

BY IAN KLEIN

At its weekly meeting on March 2, Student Senate voted to approve the creation of a “pro-life” organization at Drake.

The approval of Drake University Students for Life brought a myriad of praise and concerns from student senators and members of campus organizations whose primary focus is reproductive rights.

Present at the Senate meeting were more than 40 individuals that had expressed interest in Drake University Students for Life. Also in attendance at the meeting were representatives from Student Activists for Gender Equity (SAGE) and Drake University Voice of Choice, groups that seek to advocate for choice in regards to reproductive health.

Students for Life had initially met the standards for campus organizations set forth by the Student Affairs Committee, which is led by Student Affairs Sen. Kollin Crompton, before seeking approval from the Senate. Crompton recommended that senators set personal beliefs aside when discussing whether or not Students for Life should be approved.

Similarly, Professor Jennifer McCrickerd, who agreed to be an advisor for the group but was not in attendance at the meeting, sent a message to student senators, saying that “there is no need for you to set aside your personal beliefs to support this club.” McCrickerd herself does not identify as pro-life.

John Altendorf, a first-year student, spoke on behalf of Students for Life in front of the Senate. Altendorf shared with senators the group’s mission statement, which says, “Drake University Students for Life club was inspired by a desire to transform our culture into one that upholds the dignity of every human life, from conception until natural death.”

Concerned senators pressed Altendorf to provide more information on the affiliations of Students for Life. The Senate motion states that “Students for Life is not associated with any national, statewide or local groups.”

School of Journalism and Mass Communication Sen. Jake Bullington questioned Altendorf on the validity of the clause, noting that Students for Life uses the same name and logo as the national Students for Life organization.

Altendorf asserted that the club is an independent group.

“We are not affiliated with that group,” Altendorf said. “We can get support from that group if we have questions, because they are kind of the mother group that started the Students for Life organization.”

Altendorf said the group may consider receiving “materials and resources” from the national Students for Life group in the future.

The same concern was echoed by Clio Cullison, co-president of Drake University’s Voice of Choice, who was in attendance at the Senate meeting.

“Students for Life, in its national form, is pushing misinformation intended to encourage people to join their organization and discourage them from making a safe, legal, medical decision that should be no one else’s choice,” Cullison said.

“The words that Students for Life perpetuate mean the difference between being educated and making an uninformed medical decision for students based on misinformation, fear and not science,” Cullison continued.

Senators expressed concern for the potential for religiously-motivated messages and how the group will respond to criticism from the public.

Community Outreach Sen. Bakari Caldwell, who was not present for the meeting, had a pre-written statement for the Senate regarding the group.

“Any organization or office or student which plans to limit the voices and choices of the women at our school and the women within our community does not align with what I read the various mission statements, vision statements and inclusion statements on campus to say,” Caldwell wrote.

Caldwell’s sentiments resonated with other senators who were concerned that the Students for Life group would be less inclusive for women.

Lauren Carroll, who is a first-year student and was present at the meeting, supports Students for Life.

“I think this organization can provide education to people from a perspective that isn’t always heard on campus,” Carroll said. “The goal of this organization is not to press beliefs on anyone else, but to simply allow others who are interested the opportunity to take a look at perspectives other than their own on issues as controversial as this.”

Crompton concurred with Carroll’s thoughts.

“I think anyone on Drake’s campus should be able to advocate for their beliefs, as long as they stay within the code of conduct,” he said. “I value diversity on Drake’s campus, and sadly we saw that not everyone does. Diversity includes diversity of thought.”

The Senate voted 15-5 in favor of approving the club.

In other Senate news, Director of Campus Public Safety Scott Law gave senators updates regarding campus parking. Law said the University is “four years behind on maintenance for most of our parking lots,” and that the cost of a parking pass will need to increase in order to fund these maintenance procedures. Law also noted that parking fees have not changed since 2008.

The current plan is to have a graduated increase in parking passes over a three-year span. Commuter parking rates would increase from $160 per year currently to $250 per year in 2021, while resident parking rates would increase from $250 per year in 2019 to $275 per year in 2021.

The parking committee at Drake will meet next week, and Law asked that students email him with any questions or concerns regarding parking which can be incorporated in the discussion at the meeting.

Student Senate meets weekly on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. in Room 201 of Cowles Library.

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