Destruction and theft of student displays of anti-abortionists and pro-choice advocates have turned the grassy commons area of a Miami University regional school into a ground-zero in the battle between the two, highly polarized movements.
Earlier this week a display by students in favor of abortion rights saw their work stolen from the central campus grounds at Miami University Hamilton.
The theft, which is being investigated by campus police, follows an act of vandalism last week on an anti-abortion display in the same area where two student suspects were caught on video destroying the exhibit.
Miami senior Amy Malott, who’s a member of the local chapter of College Students for Reproductive Justice, told this news outlet Thursday she was angered after learning her group’s display was stolen.
“The first display was stolen from campus property after only 24 hours of being on display,” said Malott as she stood near the latest, restored exhibit, which consists of dozens of wire clothes hangers with individual, pro-abortion rights messages created by students.
“It was extremely frustrating because it was a display a lot of students and the student body were able to partake in and a lot of voices were stolen here,” said Malott.
Miami University officials share her disappointment.
In an April 18 message to students and staff from Miami Interim Associate Provost and Dean of Miami’s regional schools, Cathy Bishop-Clark wrote: “I am saddened by the continued theft and vandalism of free speech displays on our campus.”
Those committing such acts, said Bishop-Clark, will face school punishment and perhaps criminal prosecution.
“As we have said following damage to another student display, Miami Regionals promotes and protects the right to free speech and expression. Our liberal arts education recognizes that intellectual engagement is maximized by the exchange and representation of diverse and multifaceted points of view and life experiences,” she said.
The two students filmed destroying the student-sponsored, pro-life display was the latest free-speech incident that has drawn national attention to the Miami Hamilton campus.
A recent federal lawsuit settlement about a similar anti-abortion display and “trigger warnings” Miami officials tried to force students to issue about the display.
Perry Richardson, spokesman for the 3,000-student Miami campus in Hamilton, said all the school’s campuses “have always been a space for open dialogue and free exchange of ideas. In this case, we are very disappointed in the recent vandalism and theft of student displays.”
“Our security personnel are aware of these incidents and remain vigilant in keeping the entire campus safe in addition to protecting property. And we annually notify student groups about display policies and we will try to make them more widely known,” said Richardson.
In response, he said, next semester the school will offer a new course entitled “Free Speech: Crime, Campus, Cops” that will be open to students of all majors.