As a more than slightly opinionated, self-proclaimed activist and defender of free speech, I am all for students promoting their organizations and beliefs on campus. I am proud that we attend a school with so many different people with different backgrounds that participate in so many different things. We each have our own voice and this University has made it easy enough to express that voice. However, while the University continues to foster a love for independence and freedom of speech (the core values that this country itself was founded on), it should also respect that not everyone would like to have others’ views forcibly thrust upon them while walking to and from class.
While walking from the journalism building after my class, I headed toward the Tate parking deck. I first saw a sign that advertised a warning for the graphic material up ahead. Based on the numerous Facebook status updates and Tweets that had blown up my phone earlier in the day, I knew the material was none other than pro-life, anti-abortionists broadcasting their beliefs to the student body. As I approached the heavily trafficked area, I saw a group of students holding up blankets that said "graphic material" to physically block me. While they did a lovely job of blocking the outer rim of the graphic material with their hodge-podge of blankets, they did nothing to hide the giant billboard featuring aborted fetuses that more closely resembled disturbing blobs of blood and mangled tissue.
I have nothing against those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights, however, when that right is used to cause the milk from my breakfast cereal to curdle in my stomach, I'd rather not have your views forced down my throat. To the “pro-lifers” that chose to block off the majority of my walking space in a central part of campus: I respect the message you are trying to pass along to others. But when you are relying upon disturbing graphics that stretch into the sky and cannot be covered by your literal blanket of protection, you aren't doing it in a way that earns respect for you or your cause. Yes, other students may have blocked off a small portion of the literature and graphics that you deemed “disturbing,” but what about that monstrosity of a sign? I didn't want to see that. The few students I saw looking squeamish as they scuttled past the looming billboard of “truth” most likely didn't want to see your worst-of-the-worst abortion depiction. I'm sure the poor high schoolers on the campus tour bus that was parked right outside the stairs leading down to your altar of sacrificed fetuses didn't want to see that. I wonder what kind of impression we have left for these potential Bulldogs?
Please continue expressing what you believe in, but don't fool yourself into thinking that blocking off a small portion of your disgusting presentation is protecting the masses from graphic material. Yes, your opponents may have shielded me from the majority of your literature, however, the looming mass of cut-up baby that towered above me clouded the blue sky with blood and filth. Protest all you will, but either invest in bigger blankets to provide the pro-choice group or shorten your darn sign. Fetuses aren't that large — aborted or not.
And finally, to University of Georgia administration: UGA is a fantastic university. I love that both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice supporters can advocate for their beliefs on campus. But please, when it comes to Campus Tours, perhaps UGA could be a little more considerate of the presentations going on in one of the most populous/trafficked areas of campus. We may be a school that fosters creativity and encourages speech, but when it appears that we heavily lean toward one side of a highly controversial political issue because protesters were told by the administration that they could position themselves in not only a highly trafficked area, but in a location of prominence for students touring the facilities, perhaps the administration needs to more closely examine their own sense of judgment. I have no doubt that we lost more than one potential Bulldog today.
—Melissa Manson is a junior from Peachtree City majoring in advertising and theatre