Students at the University of Pittsburgh have been working tirelessly to launch a their Member Group on campus, the Anscombe Society, and become an official group at UPitt in order to successfully and valiantly defend the principles of marriage, the family, and sexual integrity. They recognize an important need on campus to balance out the conversation and effectively articulate both sides of the dialogue surrounding these issues. This week, in response to a university-sponsored pro-promiscuity event entitled “SEXPO: Featuring Pop the Cherry,” students took action and distributed over 400 flowers with messages attached that articulated a defense of authentic love. Read on for the complete story and how the University of Pittsburgh responded! This is a prime example of students seizing a great opportunity to respond to events on campus and deal with opposition:
PITTSBURGH, PA, FEBRUARY 8, 2011: On Monday February 7th and Tuesday February 8th, student members of the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society, an organization dedicated towards promoting authentic dating relationships and fostering faithful marriages distributed free flowers and educational brochures on abstinence to students of the University of Pittsburgh in the lobby of Litchfield Towers, to counteract the University sponsored pro-promiscuity event “SEXPO: Featuring Pop the Cherry.”
What the Anscombe Society is:
The Anscombe Society is a group of students concerned about the social environment on University campuses, and is a strong advocate for abstinence, chastity, and faithful marriage. Our namesake is G.E.M. Anscombe, a 20th Century philosopher from Great Britain. One of herUniversity of Pittsburgh Stifles Free Speech Page 2
greatest strengths was that, though she was a Catholic, she wrote both philosophical articles presuming atheism and other, more politically philosophical articles assuming some religious viewpoint. Likewise, The Pittsburgh Anscombe Society promotes the benefits of abstinence devoid of any religious affiliation, in favor of using scientific and philosophical arguments to make our case.
The first Anscombe Society in the United States was at Princeton University. Out of it grew the Love and Fidelity Network, of which the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society is a member group. We have been growing, and meeting regularly since November of 2010, and are in the final stages of being officially recognized by the University of Pittsburgh, although we exist and operate independent of the University.
Modern day figures we regard highly include Professor Robert George (Princeton), Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse (Ruth Institute), and Dr. Miriam Grossman (author, Unprotected).
Upon seeing the pro-promiscuity “SEXPO” event on Facebook, the Anscombe Society decided to be a peaceful opposition presence during the event, handing out flyers promoting abstinence as a legitimate alternative to what PantherWell (the branch of the University Student Health Service organizing the “SEXPO” event) was promoting. Members prepared tissue paper flowers and brochures titled “Why Abstinence” which featured data and arguments supporting the physical and mental benefits that abstinence provides. We also asked any interested students to sign a poster pledging to be chaste this upcoming weekend, and directed those who wanted to learn more to our website, www.pittanscombesociety.org.
Shortly after our promotion began on Monday, February 7, PantherWell summoned police to confront Anscombe Society members. After members cooperated by moving slightly out of the entryway, the police left.
On Tuesday, February 8, PantherWell called University of Pittsburgh Housing official Rosemary Natale who confronted the members, telling them to leave but promising to advocate for them with the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC). Within an hour, however, the same official sent an e-mail to Joseph Petrich, the President of the Anscombe Society, banning the organization from continuing to distribute information in the lobby of Litchfield Towers on the basis that it endangers students and violates University of Pittsburgh policy, as seen below in a quote from her correspondence:
“Because of the high traffic flow in this area, we restrict groups to tables only and not individuals standing in the lobby handing out information. This is a policy we must enforce for the safety of all students that travel through the area. I have been informed that Anscombe Society is awaiting approval for their student organization, but until they are officially approved they cannot use the lobby area to promote their group. If Students for Life would like to sponsor Anscombe Society and follow proper channels to reserve a table in the lobby area, that would be acceptable… Until Anscombe receives recognition by SORC, we cannot permit them to solicit in the lobby area.”
The carnations that are causing the problems…
In response to this e-mail, President Joseph Petrich cited sections of the University of Pittsburgh Student Code of Conduct (as cited below) that permits peaceful demonstrations, protests, and picketing*. He stated that the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society is not an official student organization, and therefore, the members of the Society were acting as individuals**. Furthermore, he clarified that the Anscombe Society were not in any way soliciting or promoting their group, but rather were disseminating information on abstinence, and giving out free flowers. At the time of release, no response had been received.
Quotes from University of Pittsburgh Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Procedures (effective August 15, 2010): Student Rights Within the University Community: … * -To engage in peaceful, orderly, and nondestructive picketing, protests, and demonstrations, to the extent that they do not violate public law and do not interfere with the educational process or the rights of other members of the University…
** -To organize one’s own personal behavior as long as such behavior does not violate public law or the rights of others and does not interfere with the educational process.
The Anscombe Society learned of SEXPO from the public Facebook event, which originally featured a picture of brightly colored condoms, the title “SEXPO,” and the following events:
Monday 02/07: 5-7, SEXPO (featuring Pop the Cherry)
Tuesday 02/08: 4-5, Are You Down?: Oral Sex Safety
Wednesday 02/09: 4-6, Wet and Wild: Lube Dos and Don’ts
Thursday 02/10: 3-5, Healthy Relationships and Condom Sense
Friday 02/11: 12:30-2:30, Sexy, Strong, and Single
After numerous posts and rebuttals from President Joseph Petrich and various other members, the event’s picture and event titles were changed, and on Sunday, February 6, the event was taken down from Facebook.
In summary, the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society, with the intent of promoting abstinence, peacefully handed out flowers and information in the Litchfield Towers lobby. On the other side of the lobby, PantherWell was hosting a pro-promiscuity event. They took these courses of action. (1) They called the police, we complied and the police left. (2) They called housing saying we were being a disturbance, which was proven false. (3) Housing then attempted to ban us by claiming that we were not approved yet, however present members of Students for Life offered to cosponsor, and, regardless, individual students are entitled to free speech by the Code of Conduct. (4) Housing then tried to ban Anscombe Society on the basis of no demonstrations being allowed without tabling, which is also contrary to our rights as described in the Student Code of Conduct.
The Pittsburgh Anscombe Society maintains that its members’ peaceful demonstration, consisting of offering free flowers and brochures on abstinence, are protected by the University of Pittsburgh Code of Conduct and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Email Correspondence with Rosemary Natale of Housing
Hi Victoria & Joseph,
An issue has come to my attention regarding a prospective student organization, Anscombe Society, and their activities to promote their soon-to-be recognized organization. On Monday 2/7 and Tuesday 2/8, students from the Anscombe Society group were in the Litchfield Towers Lobby handing out information in the hopes of promoting their organization. Residence Life provides tables for student groups to use to help promote their organizations and programs. Tables are reserved by completing a reservation request and are approved based on availability. Because of the high traffic flow in this area, we restrict groups to tables only and not individuals standing in the lobby handing out information. This is a policy we must enforce for the safety of all students that travel through the area. I have been informed that Anscombe Society is awaiting approval for their student organization, but until they are officially approved they cannot use the lobby area to promote their group. If Students for Life would like to sponsor Anscombe Society and follow proper channels to reserve a table in the lobby area, that would be acceptable. A member from Students for Life would have to be present during reserved tabling hours. Until Anscombe receives recognition by SORC, we cannot permit them to solicit in the lobby area. If you have any questions or concerns please contact me or stop by my office. Thank you for your cooperation. Rosey.
Residence Life 510 William Pitt Union
Ms. Natale, I would like to correct your assessment of the situation pertaining to the activities of the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society (a branch of which is, indeed, waiting for University of Pittsburgh Student Organization Resource Center certification).
First of all, the information being disseminated was purely informational. It was not meant to promote the “soon-to-be recognized organization,” as (1) the pamphlets/flowers were educational, and (2) the Anscombe Society existed before part of it sought certification as a SORC certified student organization.
Second, tables are indeed given to student groups to promote their organizations and their programs. Members of the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society handing out free flowers and educational brochures were acting as individuals however, and not as operatives of any campus organization. The actions of individuals in peaceful demonstration are protected under the Student Code of Conduct, provided that they do not obstruct or harm the educational process or any person. Anyone present at the time will attest to the fact that the individuals in question were careful to stay out of the main walkway, and that they moved all the way against the walls when large groups of people headed through the lobby.
In conclusion, since the members of the Pittsburgh Anscombe Society were acting as individuals and promoting an underrepresented school of thought in a public area, without disrupting the educational process, endangering anyone, or obstructing any university or non-university persons, they are protected under the Student Code of Conduct, and have no responsibility to leave unless a violation of the Code gives a University of Pittsburgh or law enforcement official just cause to expel the individuals from the premises.
Joseph W. Petrich
President, Pittsburgh Anscombe Society
This information is referenced from the Public Press Release, which can be viewed in its entirety, here.
Be on the look-out for a follow-up article from on of the students at Pittsburgh, Student Fellow Joseph Petrich. He will be recounting the week of events from his first-hand perspective.
If you would like to support the students involved with the Anscombe Society at the University of Pittsburgh, please contact:
Ashley Crouch at firstname.lastname@example.org.