NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
A 22-year-old Dartmouth College student will appear in court early next week after he allegedly used his car to run over a pro-life display set up by a student organization.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education (FIRE), the man, Emery S. Coxe, has been charged with disorderly conduct after he allegedly drove his Toyota Camry off of the road and into a display created by Vita Clamantis, a pro-life student organization, in mid-April. He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
The display was called the "Cemetery of the Innocents," the Vita Clamantis blog explains, and featured 546 American flags that were set up to represent the 54.6 million lives lost to abortion since the case of Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.
"The purpose of this display was not to condemn but to ask for forgiveness and to promise hope, to promise ourselves and each other that we will do better, we will care better, we will be better," Vita Clamantis President Robert M. Smith wrote in the blog.
"We put these flags out to ask every Dartmouth student a simple question: when your friend, your sister, your cousin, your neighbor, finds herself in this crisis, afraid and uncertain, feeling like the decision of her life weighs upon her, what will you do?"
The group also used the display as a way to advertise a moderated discussion that was held on campus.
But according to The Dartmouth Review, the peaceful display site quickly became more like a battle zone. The signs created to explain the display were defaced, some of the flags were stolen and someone even planted a sign of their own nearby that said, "May the child you save be GAY."
Later, Coxe allegedly drove his car through the display and knocked over a number of the flags, as photos from the Review show. At one point, there were three security vehicles and a Hanover Police Department cruiser at the scene of the display.
"Unfortunately this isn’t that uncommon when it comes to displays on campus, and particularly pro-life displays," Robert Shibley, senior vice president of FIRE, told The Christian Post on Friday.
Shibley says dissenting opinions are not being well-received on most campuses, neither from individuals nor from the schools themselves. FIRE researches the speech codes of about 400 schools annually, and last year the organization found that about 65 percent of schools have speech codes that are either unconstitutional or would be considered so if they weren’t private.
"That’s two-thirds of schools specifically telling students in the rules what they can or can’t say. When you have a culture like that it’s not surprising that students, when they’re faced with expression they don’t like, think it’s okay to destroy it, trash it, get rid of it or, in this case, run over it," said Shibley.
Information on the speech codes of specific schools are available on FIRE’s website, Shibley says, although he believes that schools should take the initiative and do a better job of teaching students "how to operate in a free society."
Schools: Dartmouth College