Universities used to be places of learning that hosted a free exchange of ideas. No longer. Three and a half weeks ago, my sisters’ peaceful pro-life outreach at UC Santa Barbara was rudely interrupted by a professor who gathered a small mob of students to shout down any attempt at conversation, stole their sign and, while escaping to her office with the sign and a few of her students, pushed and scratched Thrin. Then the professor destroyed the sign.
So far, UC Santa Barbara’s only response to the incident and to the Survivors Campus Outreach team’s visit the following week was an internal memo to students and faculty from Vice Chancellor Young. In his email, Young bemoaned that the students were being “tested once again” by “outsiders coming into our midst to provoke us, taunt us, and attempt to turn us against one another, as they promote . . .” Wait a minute -- “turn us against one another”? That’s odd. None of us had provoked or taunted anyone, but what did Young even mean by saying we were trying to “turn [them] against one another”? Who were the pro-lifers trying to turn against whom?
Then I remembered another odd statement. Before stealing the sign from Joan and her friends, Miller-Young first held a one-sided debate with the pro-lifers, for the entertainment of her students. She kept talking over them, trying to make them look like idiots because they did not have three degrees like her (honestly, she mentioned her three degrees). Then she upped the ante. She started shouting stuff like, “Are we going to put up with this on our campus?” Then she started a chant, “Tear down the sign. Tear down the sign,” trying to incite the students to do it. The chant died out and the pro-lifers started trying to talk to individual students in the crowd. In response, Miller-Young ran from student to student exhorting them, “Don’t let them split us up. We have to stick together.” What did she mean by that? Now, one meaning of that could be, “Hey, if we’re going to accomplish some mob violence, we have to remain a mob,” and that could very well have been her meaning in part. But, in light of the Vice-Chancellor’s statement, I think she was also saying, “We all must think alike. Don’t let them make us think differently.”
Again, at another campus just this week, pro-abortion students gathered opposite the pro-life display to hold signs and “engage in peaceful protest.” But they wouldn’t talk to anyone who disagreed with them. Half of their signs were dedicated to instructing students not to “engage” with the pro-lifers. My first conversation with their group started off well - it ended when they realized that I wasn’t pro-abortion. They told me that they didn’t want to talk to anyone who didn’t agree with them and that they would call the police and try to have me arrested for harassing them if I continued the conversation.
Compare that to how rational people respond in an argument. Suppose you were walking through a park with some friends, and someone with signs and leaflets started urging your friends that the United States intervene to prevent genocide in Freedonia. Or stay out of Freedonia. You and your friends have very strong feelings about American involvement in Freedonia, but one of your friends starts listening to the speaker, possibly agreeing with him. If you wanted to convince your friend, wouldn’t you say something along the lines of “No, he’s got his facts on Freedonia all wrong,” or “Look at history. We can see what the results of this will be.” Would it ever cross your mind to say, “Don’t listen to him. We have to stick together. He’s just trying to turn us against each other”? Judging from Young’s and Miller-Young statement, the importance of uniformity of thought counts as not just a legitimate but a powerful argument on college campuses today: Don’t listen to them. It might cause you to think differently than the rest of us.
Their argument reveals a classic case of groupthink. Wikipedia defines groupthink as “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.” Right on the money!
This phenomenon of groupthink on campuses may be the key to other puzzling accusations we regularly receive on campuses. For example, we are frequently accused of engaging in “hate speech,” or being “haters,” or “peddling hate,” as Vice-Chancellor Young put it. We are there to educate people about the reality of abortion. Who is the object of our supposed hatred? If we are “peddling hate,” who are we trying to make hate whom?
The only answer I can come up with is that, to people caught in the web of groupthink, disagreeing with someone necessitates hating them. Thus, to try to persuade members of the herd to think differently is tantamount to turning them into “haters” of the rest of the herd – just as we are presumed to hate those who disagree with us.
Or maybe “hate” is linked to that other mystery term: tolerance. Tolerance is lauded as an all-encompassing virtue.
Apparently if you don’t “tolerate” whatever someone else does, you must hate the person himself. So by going to college campuses and exposing abortion for what it is, we are being “intolerant” not just of abortion itself but of any woman who had an abortion in the past or might have one in the future, and any men involved as well. Ergo, we hate them, despite the fact that the material we distribute specifically addresses post-abortion healing.
Critical thinking is a lost art on university campuses. The only way to bring it back is for “outsiders to come into [their] midst” and try to get students to think differently from each other.
Vice Chancellor Young describes the mission of the Campus Outreach Team and other groups like us. We do not stand on the sidelines and wait for the abortion battle to come to us. We go to the heart of the culture wars, and try to pull people out of their apathy and complacency. To learn more about Campus Outreach, and what my sisters and I do to engage students in thoughtful discussions about abortion, visit the Survivors Campus Outreach webpage here.