Image used with permission of Sydney Baker
Image used with permission of Sydney Baker

Two hundred blue and pink flags in the middle of campus have caused quite an uproar among students. Because Jan. 22 marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and the annual pro-life march in Washington D.C., Knights of Columbus representatives decided to set up their own display on campus to raise awareness about the issue.

The flags are now gone from O’Connor Park, but the conversation they helped spark on campus amongst students on both sides of the issue remains ongoing.

During the first week of classes, students didn’t have a clue as to what the flags could mean. A few ambiguous emails were sent out with minimal information. The emails told students that if they wanted to find out what the flags were for, then students would have to stop by O’Connor Park on Friday.

When Friday came, many students were surprised to see that it was a pro-life display and felt as though certain beliefs were being pushed upon them.

Some students, such as Krystal Szerszen, shared their strong opinions toward the display, both critical and supportive, on popular social media sites and opened the floodgates for a heated debate on whether or not the display was appropriate for the campus.

“One thing about the pro-life table that upset me and many other students is that it was set up by a group of men who cannot and will never be forced to birth children,” Szerszen said.

Szerszen also disliked what she perceived as religious bias on campus.

“The argument [at the table] was not even a very good one, because it relied on the existence of souls which not all people believe exist,” Szerszen said. “Not everyone who attends this school is religious. I came to this college not because of its religious affiliation, but in spite of it.”

However, 2nd Degree Knight and senior Keith Wanamaker says the Knights of Columbus were out to educate, not advocate.

“Our mission was to raise awareness,” Wanamaker said. “We weren’t out there saying that people have to be pro-life. I was there to educate people. Here’s the facts, and whatever they decide is fine.”

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization, and is very supportive of a pro-life perspective. Though they are a group that operates here on campus, Wanamaker stated that their views should not be directly linked to the views of King’s College. Wanamaker said that not everyone who worked at the table was strictly pro-life.

Some students saw the flags as a graveyard and in turn felt like the organization was attempting to use guilt in order to make people more pro-life. This turned out to be the most problematic misconception.

“We set up the flags as a tribute to those who didn’t get to walk this earth,” Wanamaker explained. “We didn’t do this to guilt people, make them angry or combat their views. Our goal was to educate.”

An important part of education, however, is the open discussion from both sides of this issue. In the aftermath of the display, some students have been wondering if a pro-choice table would be allowed.

Sean Cryan, director of Campus Activities, said a pro-choice group would not be able to set up a table on campus.

“A pro-choice table would not be allowed on campus because of the Catholic mission of the school,” Cryan said.

Szerszen did not think it was right to have only one side of such a controversial topic such as abortion represented on campus.

“I just think that it is wrong that this campus prides itself on being inclusive and non-judgmental and would allow a pro-life campaign and forbid a pro-choice one,” Szerszen said. “In my opinion, learning and educating people is one of the most important things in the world and it should be the most important thing on a college campus.”

Wanamaker said open discourse would not have been discouraged at the Knights of Columbus table.

“It’s okay to bring up and talk about controversial issues,” Wanamaker said. “We tend to shy away from it. I understand that people are frustrated as with any issue. That’s fine. If you want to come up and talk about it you absolutely can.”