DePaul rejects College Republicans’ poster

The relationship between the DePaul College Republicans (DCR) and university administration has been noticeably strained over the past six months. Disputes over what speakers should be allowed on campus and what speech is considered offensive have caused many members of the College Republicans to feel the university is silencing their political views.

Despite this, when the DRC submitted a poster advertising their organization that said “Unborn Lives Matter” to the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) for approval, they were expecting zero pushback. But the proposal for the poster, which was clearly inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s well-known black and white design, was denied by the administration.

John Minster, Vice President of DCR, said members were shocked by the decision.

“We were upset and surprised,” Minster said. “We were surprised because while we understand where (the administration is) coming from, given the issue (and) given the problems we’ve already had with speech at the school, we assumed that given it’s just a poster this wouldn’t be an issue. (We thought) this is something that they would say, ‘OK, fine.’ They might not agree with it, they might not like it, but given the sort of pro-life values behind it we thought it would be fine. And obviously we thought wrong.”

The university released an official statement explaining their decision to deny the DCR from using their “Unborn Lives Matter” poster.

President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M. denied the DePaul College Republicans "Unborn Lives Matter" poster proposal, accusing its message of promoting "bigotry." (Image courtesy of DePaul College Republicans)
President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M. denied the DePaul College Republicans “Unborn Lives Matter” poster proposal, accusing its message of promoting “bigotry.” (Image courtesy of DePaul College Republicans)

“In making this decision, we looked no further than the university’s Guiding Principles for Speech & Expression which note a ‘distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.’ The principles also state that ‘speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic Values.’ The proposed banner was, at best deceptive, and the words, font, colors and design were clearly intended to do a disservice to the Black Lives Matter and pro-life movements. The students submitted an alternative banner that was approved.”

Minster said the university was wrong to claim the poster was an attempt by the College Republicans to disservice the BLM and pro-life movements.

“For DePaul to decide our intentions, to decide whether or not our posters were doing a disservice to the movements I think is silly,” Minster said. “To say ‘Unborn lives matter,’ it’s pretty obvious the connotation of where that’s coming from and it works quite well with the issue of abortion.”

DePaul senior Jei Beyes said the university made the right decision in denying the “Unborn Lives Matter” posters.

“Why have an advertisement that could potentially alienate members of your own cause?” Beyes said. “It is not a dispute that young and unborn lives matter. It seems that as much as (these posters) makes sense (to members of the DePaul College Republicans), think about how horribly caustic it could be (for) people who were forced into abortion because of rape and now there is a club of people who represent a hatred for her.”

But others like DePaul graduate student Kyle Wahe are supporting the DePaul College Republicans on this issue.

“I disagree on almost every level with DePaul’s decision to refuse this particular poster,” Wahe said. “I understand that these decisions are hard, and I have a lot of respect for DePaul’s administrators. These are posters that students, guests, alumni and faculty can see in plain sight, so it is important that we don’t convey messages that oppose our mission and even common decency. I do not feel, however, that this poster violated any of our principles, nor that it was meant to ‘provoke’ Black Lives Matter as Rev. Holtschneider (said in his email response to the issue). The notion that anti-abortion sentiments run counter to the goals of Black Lives Matter is preposterous, and this is what the University is suggesting.”

That the controversy surrounding the “Unborn Lives Matter” posters is taking place during national Free Speech Week makes the issue increasingly relevant.

For DePaul senior Christian Rivera-Vega, the administrations decision is only “closing the door for discourse and discussion.”

“People are going to have different opinions, and if anything, they (should) be taking University of Chicago’s approach of using these differences to create a forum for discussion,” Vega said. “I believe this approach to be a disservice — people cannot live in bubbles.”

Many students came out in support of the administration’s decision to reject the “Unborn Lives Matter” poster, but Minster warned that this censorship sets a dangerous precedent in terms of free speech on campus.

“DePaul is walking a very slippery slope with that,” he said.