We have been following the increasing violence seen on college campuses, particularly directed against conservative and pro-life speakers. The latest incident occurred at Ryerson University in Ontario where a video captured Ryerson Student Gabriela “Gabby” Skwarko attacking two members of Toronto Against Abortion (TAA). Skwarko works for the school’s Office of Social Innovation. The video below shows a violent and unprovoked attack to stop an act of free speech on campus.
Skwarko, a member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective, kicked the displays and physically attacked the pro-life activists as well as taking property and throwing it about.
Strangely, Skwardo is temporarily forbidden from contacting fellow student Blaise Alleyne, president and founder of TAA, but there is no indication that she was banned immediately from campus. Indeed, the university did not respond to media inquiries.
We have been discussing the enculturation of anti-free speech values in college students across the country. One recent incident occurred at the California State University where assistant professor of public health professor Greg Thatcher is shown on a videotape wiping out the pro-life statements written in chalk by members of Fresno State Students for Life. The university is now being sued over the incident.
The incident raises troubling memories of the controversy surrounding the confrontation of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young with pro-life advocates on campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. She was convicted and sentenced for the crime. Despite the shocking conduct of Miller-Young and the clear violation of the most fundamental values for all academics in guaranteeing free speech and associational rights, the faculty overwhelmingly supported Miller-Young and the university decided not to impose any meaningful discipline. To make matters worse, Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, not only issued a statement that seemed to blame the victims but practically defended Miller-Young’s conduct. Faculty and student defenders attacked the pro-life advocates and one even referred to them as “terrorists” who did not deserve free speech. Miller-Young should have been fired but was instead lionized by faculty and students.
The obvious response to this video is to fire Skwardo and expel her from the university. She not only committed a violent attack on another student but actively sought to prevent the exercise of free speech at the university. Teachers and students like Miller-Young, Thatcher, and Skwardo believe that they have free license to attack or silence conservative or pro-life speakers at their schools. The response to controversies like the one at University of California at Santa Barbara reinforce such views.
Ryerson must now prove that academic freedom and free speech are protected on its campus for all students, including those who are pro-life.