Gabe Smith, Campus Carrier staff writer
Last Tuesday, Berry Students for Life held its first meeting as a new interest group. According to junior Velera Price, the founder of the group, it is intended to be a place of support for students who consider themselves pro-life. Though the group is opinionated and promotes a pro-life viewpoint, Price said she also wants it to be a venue for discussion that she believes is currently lacking on Berry’s campus. Further, Price said the group’s topics of discussion will extend beyond abortion to all life-related issues, including the death penalty and euthanasia.
At the interest meeting, students of varying majors and class years had an opportunity to express their thoughts on the group and on the dialogue surrounding abortion. Many said they found their positions marginalized and underrepresented on campus and were looking forward to Berry Students for Life providing a safe place for their views.
Not all students, however, are as optimistic. One student attending the meeting asked how the group could promote free discussion if it is explicitly pro-life in orientation, to which Price replied that the group plans to host events it hopes will invite discussion from different perspectives and that the organization maintains a preset orientation to prevent it becoming a debate club.
Michael Papazian, professor of religion and philosophy and the faculty advisor to Berry Students for Life, said that, in his experience teaching philosophy, Berry students hold a diverse range of viewpoints on abortion and other life-related issues and know how to discuss them with civility.
However, he added that the venue of discussion is important, as many students are uncomfortable talking about such controversial issues as abortion and the death penalty. While he acknowledged that the new group does advocate a particular position, he pointed out that this is not the first advocacy group on Berry’s campus and said he believes the group can enrich students’ experience by exposing them to different viewpoints and exploring how pro-life abortion views relate to other issues, such as capital punishment and immigration.
According to Price and the group’s vice president, senior Carrie Sturniolo, the group does not wish to be adversarial and considers helping women to be common ground on which Berry Students for Life can work with other students and campus organizations, including those who consider themselves pro-choice. They cite plans to organize fundraising for federally qualified health centers, an adoption awareness campaign and a campaign to support on-campus mothers with childcare and finances. They say their group’s national parent organization, Students for Life of America, can offer legal support to pregnant students who face problems connected to on-campus pregnancy.
Finally, Price and Sturniolo plan to conduct member training sessions to help their members advocate pro-life views; they view this as preparation for future tabling and outreach events. While some students have questioned whether Berry Students for Life can advocate pro-life positions while remaining free of political and religious affiliations, Price and Sturniolo say the group will remain open and is deeply committed to discussion.