April 19, 2006
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NKU professor Dr. Sally Jacobsen enlisted several of her students to help her dismantle the anti-abortion “Cemetery of Innocents,” a display that she has said infuriated her, on April 12. She initially denied involvement, despite being photographed in the act of tearing down part of the display. But on April 18, she apologized to the community. She was placed on leave for the rest of the semester. She also will retire then. The police are still investigating; however, no charges have been filed. The following are some letters to the editor received about the incident.
Cemetery was intimidating
I support and agree with Dr. Sally Jacobsen’s positions and actions.
An abortion is a private decision; it should not be politicized. Intimidation and guilt have no place on a university campus. If the symbol of choice were Ku Klux Klan crosses or signs decrying the sin of homosexuality, Jacobsen would have been lauded as a hero. To me, this “controversy” vividly illustrates the status of women in our society.
Wayde Shanks Senior Academic Advisor
“I was immediately ashamed”
How absolutely tragic. That is what comes to mind as I read about the destruction of the Northern Right to Life’s “Cemetery of Innocents” display. I strongly support abortion rights.
However, a professor at this university inciting her students to destroy a peaceful and sanctioned display is embarrassing. A university, supposedly, is to be a haven for free thought and one of the places where ideas and views can be exchanged. I was immediately ashamed that something like this not only could happen at my university, but did.
Dr. Sally Jacobsen, as a tenured professor, should know that one can’t protect free speech by suppressing others’ rights to state their views.
Furthermore, it was irresponsible for Jacobsen to “invite” students to assist her in destroying someone else’s display. If she were to stage a demonstration supporting abortion rights and an anti-abortion professor incited students to tear it down, she would be screaming about intolerance.
However, intolerance is intolerance, regardless of who propagates it. If Jacobsen thinks just because she does not agree with a group’s views and beliefs that she isn’t obligated to respect the organization’s convictions, then she is sadly mistaken. Therefore, I sincerely hope that Jacobsen, and any students who were involved, are held accountable for their actions.
Stephanie Davis Industrial/Organizational Psychology Graduate Student
Dismantling the display okay
Students should be able to receive an education without having an opinion shoved down their throats in college. I am glad that the anti-abortion display was dismantled. Who knows how many students, visitors or faculty members might support reproductive choice or have had an abortion? The offensive and inappropriate display should never have been permitted.
To those who describe the dismantling as vandalism, I say Northern Right to Life’s display was a gross dismissal of separating church and state.
Much like the religious groups and preachers who frequent our campus, this display was showed Northern Kentucky University’s lax policy toward the religious right. NKU compromises the civil liberties of its students by allowing these groups to espouse their message of guilt and hate. Kudos to those who stood up for themselves, and others, by removing the crosses. Keep abortion safe and legal.
Bridget Leising Senior
Right to Life’s rights violated
Freedom of speech is a basic right guaranteed to Americans by our Constitution. I defended that right for 20 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Now a professor here at Northern Kentucky University has violated the right of free speech.
It seems Dr. Sally Jacobsen does not believe that freedom of speech applies to those who oppose her viewpoints. She also has the nerve to claim that she is exercising her right to free speech by infringing on the rights of others to express their view. NKU needs faculty who will support free speech, not stifle it. We are supposed to tolerate all views.
All Americans, even Jacobsen, have the right to express their views. However, encouraging the destruction of property, is not the way. If she wants to express her views, she should put up her own display that refutes the views with which she disagrees. That is the American way.
Whatever a person’s stance on abortion, everyone should be outraged at what Jacobsen did. She is supposed to be teaching and setting a good example for the students. Instead, she violated the free speech of others, encouraging her students to destroy the display.
Jacobsen’s actions show an absolute intolerance for opposing views by violating the free speech rights of others. That is something we Americans cannot allow. NKU should have fired her immediately. The students who participated should be expelled. They did not exercise free speech. They violated the rights of others. We must unite and respond to that.
Jeff Foster Junior History Major
Free speech trampled on
The First Amendment seems to be used to trample free speech more than to foster it anymore. Dr. Sally Jacobsen’s recent tantrum, against those who that contraception shouldn’t involve killing. Never shy in screaming about their rights, the abortion rights supporters should have some understanding about what rights are. Apparently not, and we just saw proof. Frankly, it is beyond me how someone having the intellect to achieve a Ph.d. can be so incapable of comprehending a simple amendment. So, I will try to explain it. You have the right to express your opinions. You have the right, thanks to the atrocious Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, to kill human beings right up until they exit the womb. Afterward, you have the right to leave the hospital, where your legalized murder was committed, and protest the execution of cop killers, rapists, murderers and terrorists. You can even protest against soldiers defending our rights. The First Amendment, however, does not give you the right to force your opinion on others. Further, you do not have the right to destroy what is not yours just because it offends you. Many things offend me, including abortion rights activists’ notions about human life, but I’m not going to assault them or their displays because I’m adult enough to deal with it.
One right we students do have is the right to expect our professors to show responsibility. This responsibility includes learning and demonstrating citizenship by living within the law.
The Constitution a simple document. You don’t need a Ph.d. to understand it.
Dennis Fishel Anthropology
Jacobsen’s conduct appalling
I am appalled at the actions of Dr. Sally Jacobsen, a professor in Northern Kentucky University’s Literature and Language Department, and her nine students. On April 12 she invited her students to destroy an approved anti-abortion display. Four hundred crosses represented 4,000 abortions. They found it appropriate to throw the crosses in the trash.
Jacobsen, who do you think you are? What gives you the right to decide what to censor? As American citizens, we have the right to free speech. NKU officials permitted the anti-abortion display.
I expect more from educated individuals. I expect 5-year-old kindergartners to behave in this manner, not NKU professors or students. If Jacobsen and her students were so infuriated by the display, they should have gone through the proper channels to get permission for their own display or counter protest. Jacobsen and her students owe the community, NKU students and NKU’s administration an apology.
Gretchen Pyles English Major