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University of New Mexico puts trigger warning on pro-life event: ‘may be uncomfortable’

Singling out one viewpoint for more scrutiny is unconstitutional

The University of New Mexico is having trouble keeping its rationale straight for forcing its own messaging on campus events hosted by student groups.

It seems to be singling out the Students for Life chapter with particularly strong wording while giving special treatment to an anti-rape group, despite the fact that both events addressed the same subject. And the taxpayer-funded university is exempting other groups entirely.

Students for Life of America wrote Thursday that its regional coordinator arrived on campus to see a sign placed ahead of its We Care event for rape survivors (below). It warned passers-by: “Topics Discussed May Be Uncomfortable or Controversial.”

Another campus event by the It’s On Us campaign against campus rape featured a milder sign that such groups often voluntarily use to warn victims of sexual violence. It read “Trigger warning: Content related to sexual assault will be discussed ahead.”

Unlike the Students for Life event, the university took sides by promoting the It’s On Us event (below). Both are related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

A Student Activities Center staffer told SFLA the signs are being applied to a variety of campus events but denied they were trigger warnings.

Evidently the center’s staff aren’t all on the same page, because Director Ryan Lindquist explicitly called them trigger warnings intended to “give people an opportunity to avoid or find a detour” in a Daily Lobo interview, as SFLA noted.

The director further claimed the mandatory signs showed how committed the university is to free speech (keep in mind it still bans speech outside “free speech zones”):

“We decided to use these signs as an opportunity for education, to let people know that the University of New Mexico is a place that takes free speech very seriously and wants to honor our commitment to providing a free speech forum,” he said, adding that the University must uphold this right as a state and federal institution.

Lindquist told SFLA that the signs are only required for “non-departmental and non-University sponsored events occurring on campus,” but SFLA saw at least two other groups tabling – for sign language and brewing – without preceding warning signs.

SFLA hinted that it’s considering legal action if UNM continues singling out its events, noting that Miami University of Ohio recently settled a lawsuit by its Students for Life chapter over forced trigger warnings on a pro-life display.

A public university isn’t allowed to determine and publicize which events are “controversial” and which are not, according to SFLA President Kristan Hawkins: “In doing so, they prime students to avoid and be offended by certain topics.”

Read SFLA’s post and Daily Lobo story.

MORE: Miami University drops trigger-warning requirement to settle suit

IMAGES: Students for Life of America

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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