A referendum begun by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to overturn the decision by LUCC to recognize Appleton Pro-Life Students (APLS) was sent out to students on Monday, May 16.
The referendum was initiated after a petition created by SDS received at least 167 signatures, comprising 10% of the combined student and faculty body. If the referendum reaches a simple majority, it will be sent to the desk of President Laurie Carter, at which point Carter can either sign, abstain from signing or veto. If vetoed, then the veto can be overruled by a 2/3 majority vote from the faculty. If the referendum isn’t vetoed but also isn’t signed, it becomes legislation after 2 weeks.
APLS was officially recognized by LUCC as a campus organization as of Wednesday, April 27. With this decision comes the potential for support in funding, publicity materials, facilities access for meetings and other university and local resources.
The Lawrentian sent out a survey to students to gauge their thoughts and feelings surrounding the club’s recognition. Out of 120 students, 58% of respondents said they were completely against the recognition of APLS. 14% of respondents said that the recognition had their full support. A single respondent was neutral in their opinion.
On the topic of the referendum, 65% of respondents said they would sign to overturn the decision. 23% said they would not.
On Tuesday, April 12, the LUCC Steering Committee voted to deny APLS recognition. On Wednesday, April 27, LUCC General Council voted to uphold or overturn the decision. 3 student representatives voted to overturn the decision, 3 voted to uphold and 5 abstained. The tie was broken by LUCC Cabinet President Malcolm Davis to overturn the Steering Committee’s decision and recognize APLS.
“I try my best to be as impartial as possible and to make a decision based on the facts that were presented,” Davis explained. “The bottom line is the organization completed a trial period and the stipulations that were required of them […] And if there were concerns of discrimination, the stipulations that LUCC imposed on them I felt would mitigate any future discrimination or harassment that could arise.”
First-year class representative Sherilyn Patterson had tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to attend the general council meeting on April 27. Despite requesting the day prior to the meeting to attend via Zoom, as had been allowed in the past, she did not find out until around when the meeting actually started that it would not be possible for her to Zoom in.
“I obviously was very upset about it,” said Patterson. “And I talked to a lot other first-years thinking what I should do and everyone else felt very offended by the fact that their first-year rep was blocked from the meeting […] If I had not been blocked from that meeting, if I had Zoomed in, [APLS] would not be a club right now.”
Patterson is one of the class representative on LUCC who is assigned to the Student Alliance Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SAASHA). She explained how the SAASHA board asked APLS for their opinions on people getting abortions in cases of rape and sexual assault. According to Patterson, the club would not address the issue and used vague phrasing, avoiding using the words “rape” and “sexual assault.”
“APLS should not be a club if they cannot respect the survivors on campus by acknowledging that,” said Patterson. “That’s the bare minimum, is acknowledging that.”
In the minutes for the general council meeting, it is shown that there was concern that LUCC could potentially be discriminating against APLS because of political disagreements rather than legitimate concern for the discriminatory potential of the club.
The minutes state that APLS was criticized for an Instagram post about protesting outside of a clinic with 40 Days for Life, an anti-abortion organization. Junior Tee Karki, chair of the SAASHA Committee, argued that this action does not align with the group’s stated mission to educate and foster discussion around the issue of abortion.
APLS first tried to get recognition last spring term. They have been put on two trial periods during this process. During the trial periods, LUCC’s steering committee set stipulations for APLS to fulfill, the most recent of which have been requirements to meet with SAASHA for bias training and the biology department for a conversation about fetal development, as well as undergoing dialogue training.
According to the steering meeting minutes, APLS was approved for reapplication on Feb. 15, was put on trial period on March 1, and was denied on April 12 after completing all but one of the required trainings. According to the minutes, APLS provided emails both confirming the completion of the trainings and vouching for the difficulty of completing the sustainable dialogue training, which they did not complete.
In discussing the decision to deny their recognition, the reasoning was challenged by Vice President for Student Life Chris Card and LUCC President Malcolm Davis at the meeting on April 27. According to senior class representative Sharon Kolo, Card gave a speech in which he argued that LUCC had no grounds on which to deny the club after APLS had completed all the suggestions put forth by the steering committee.
Senior class representative Eder Bellegarde voted to approve APLS’s recognition on April 27. When APLS first came to LUCC in spring of last year, Bellegarde said he was initially opposed to the club. On the recent decision, Bellegarde commented on the dedication of APLS to get approved as well as the group’s efforts to reach out and have discussions with everyone.
“I hate to say that we had them jump through hoops, and the sad truth is we [were] nitpicking about every single thing,” said Bellegarde. “I thought it was kind of unfair […] We’re all human beings. Lawrence stands for everybody having a voice.”
When contacted with an interview request, APLS declined to comment.