Friday, April 14, 2006

Prof. Sally Jacobsen: You are free to speak as long as I approve of what you say.
Display on abortion destroyed
400 crosses removed; NKU prof investigated

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - A professor at Northern Kentucky University said she invited students in one of her classes to destroy an anti-abortion display on campus Wednesday evening.

NKU police are investigating the incident, in which 400 crosses were removed from the ground near University Center and thrown in trash cans. The crosses, meant to represent a cemetery for aborted fetuses, had been temporarily erected last weekend by a student Right to Life group with permission from NKU officials.

Public universities cannot ban such displays because they are a type of symbolic speech that has been protected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Witnesses reported "a group of females of various ages" committing the vandalism about 5:30 p.m., said Dave Tobertge, administrative sergeant with the campus police.

Sally Jacobsen, a longtime professor in NKU's literature and language department, said the display was dismantled by about nine students in one of her graduate-level classes.

"I did, outside of class during the break, invite students to express their freedom-of-speech rights to destroy the display if they wished to," Jacobsen said.

Asked whether she participated in pulling up the crosses, the professor said, "I have no comment."

She said she was infuriated by the display, which she saw as intimidating and a "slap in the face" to women who might be making "the agonizing and very private decision to have an abortion.'"

She said she was infuriated by the display, which she saw as intimidating and a "slap in the face" to women who might be making "the agonizing and very private decision to have an abortion.'"…

NKU President James Votruba said any evidence of criminal conduct in the incident will be turned over to prosecutors. He said he appreciated the emotional nature of the abortion debate and was glad that diverse viewpoints are represented at the school, but he condemned the destruction of the crosses.

"Freedom-of-speech rights end where you infringe on someone else's freedom of speech," Votruba said.

"I don't buy the claim that this is an act of freedom of speech, to destroy property."

He said he was gathering information about the extent of Jacobsen's participation.

"I don't know if she was pulling up the crosses, but I think she was out there with the students. If so, as far as I'm concerned, she went outside the conditions of her employment," Votruba said…

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