Friday, April 21, 2006

On April 12, Sally Jacobsen, a tenured professor at Northern Kentucky University, gathered a handful of her graduate students during a break in her lecture to demolish a pro-life display on campus. Miss Jacobsen was angered when the newly formed Northern Right to Life group created a campus-approved exhibit which included approximately 400 small white crosses meant to represent a cemetery for aborted fetuses. The exhibit was accompanied by a sign explaining the demonstration.

Miss Jacobsen was photographed stomping on and destroying that sign, and she, along with the students whom she incited to destruction of property, ripped up, destroyed and threw away each cross. University President James Votruba subsequently announced that Miss Jacobsen will take the last 2 weeks of the semester off as paid leave, at which time she will retire.

“It has been heartening that student and faculty groups that do not necessarily support the position of Northern Kentucky Right to Life have come out strongly in support of the organization’s right to be heard through their display,” Mr. Votruba said in a letter to the campus. “This reflects a commitment to the importance of free expression as a defining quality of the University.”

Miss Jacobsen, and perhaps her students, could face criminal charges, as Kentucky law states that any theft of property worth more that $300 (the display cost nearly $600) is considered a felony.

Yet all the while, Miss Jacobsen, using Orwellian logic, has sought to depict her role in political thuggery as an exercise of her freedom of speech. As she told the Cincinnati Enquirer: “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.” Miss Jacobsen insists that the violence that she participated in was justified because of the outrage she and some of her students felt at seeing the pro-life display.

The contrast between the behavior of the Northern Right to Life group and that of Miss Jacobsen is striking. Northern Right to Life followed the rules by obtaining permission from the university to assemble its demonstration. In destroying the group’s exhibit, Miss Jacobsen disgracefully impinged on others’ right to free speech.

Her behavior is nothing more than vandalism cloaked by thin and empty claims of free-speech protection. As a professor, Miss Jacobsen had an obligation to encourage others to offer their own opinions. That includes making a thoughtful effort to persuade others of the rightness of her own views. Instead, she appears to have followed a malevolent, destructive path. We commend Mr. Votruba and the many responsible NKU faculty members of differing political persuasions for speaking out vigorously in defense of Northern Kentucky Right to Life’s free-speech rights.

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