Letter to the Editor: New student overwhelmed by club presentation

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I am a new student to Radford Univeristy. I am excited to start a new chapter in my life and take advantage of everything the university has to offer. I expect an enriching academic experience as represented by materials provided by the Admissions Office, which state: “We rely on the diversity of our student body, faculty and staff as well as our common bond of pursuing knowledge and deeper understanding in an open and nurturing intellectual environment shared by all.”

The event that took place on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 in front of the Bonnie makes me question whether I can rely on this statement and whether the academic environment offered at RU is truly an unbiased one.

On my way to purchase refreshment at the Bonnie, I was confronted with an enormous, bright orange sign that read “Warning Genocide Photos Ahead.” As I approached, I was assaulted by dozens of 6-foot high photographs depicting detached limbs, bloody bodies, mutilated women’s breasts, bodies hanging from trees, dead bodies piled haphazardly, bodies in mud, swastikas, and much, much more.
I felt confused. I could not imagine what was happening or why I was being assaulted by these violent and difficult to look at images.

I felt nauseated. There was no way to avoid looking at the photos; they were so big and the entire display, overwhelming.After a few moments I was able to understand that this was an anti-abortion group and that the “event” was actually sponsored by an official University Club, the Radford University college Republicans.

I do not find this reassuring. I do not feel that being forced to view violent images that make me feel nauseated fosters a “nurturing intellectual environment.”

Does RU maintain an anti-abortion stance? This is the impression that was given, since the only view represented was that one. Shouldn’t alternative views have been presented at the same time, to give an opportunity for intelligent and reasoned thought, or inspired debate, and to provide a “deeper understanding” of the issue?

It took me a while to notice the very small and insignificant signage indicating the sponsorship of the Radford University College Republicans.

I would have never written this letter, if it hadn’t been for the nature of the presentation. If there had been flyers on a table containing these photographs, I would have had the choice of looking at them or not. This was, decidedly, not the case. First, there were 6-foot high signs announcing “genocide,” which, in some way, was associated with the stated purpose of this event (though the connection was not clear). Putting up “warning” signs that something horrible is ahead, and then making it impossible to ignore violent photos, is just wrong.

Where was I to get my lunch if I couldn’t go near the front of the Bonnie?  This is in one of the most frequented places at the school! This was a visual and psychological assault. I do not understand the school administration’s decision to allow this sort of presentation on campus.

Further to the above objection, the references to genocide contained in the exhibit simply trivialized those truly devastating events, insulting the sensibilities of African-Americans, Jews, Rwandans, Cambodians, Native Americans, etc. If the shock value of the photographs wasn’t sufficient, there were swastikas. This information was not a positive statement on diversity.

I welcome the opportunity to be exposed to different views and even controversial ones. That is why I am here. This presentation was inappropriate and inconsistent with the stated intentions of the school to provide a healthy, diverse, and rich academic environment. I do hope that there will be an explanation that might help me understand why the administration allowed such a presentation to take place on campus and what benefits it offered to the students. It was traumatizing, it distracted me from my studies, and it made me want to leave.

If this is the “norm” at the campus, I would like to be informed of such future events in advance so that I can avoid being subjected to such disturbing images.

Joan Laguzza