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Student’s sign leads to her being asked to leave SFU function

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The March for Life event has been an annual assembly on Saint Francis University’s campus mall for several years. Although the event embraces pro-life philosophies, a student wanted to raise awareness of saving and protecting a different type of life.

On Monday, Jan 22., senior Argentina Bonilla, a women’s studies and sociology major, and her friend Amber Rogers, sophomore psychology and social work major, were asked by a SFU police officer to leave the event. The officer stated they needed a permit for the sign in order to participate in the event.

Bonilla created this poster in hopes of raising awareness for oppression of women across the world.

“The first thing I think he said was ‘you can’t be here.’ And I said ‘why? I’m here for the march.’ And he said ‘can I see your poster?’ I was like ‘sure,’” Bonilla said.

According to Bonilla, the purpose of her sign was to raise awareness for the types of women who are facing oppression. “It’s been brought to my attention that last year, 27 transgendered women were killed,” said Bonilla. “And the second (murder) of this year was a week ago, so that’s why I did it.”

The officer told Bonilla that in order to have a permit for her sign, she had to get approval from Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Lynne Banks. Bonilla explained the meaning behind her sign to Banks when she and Rogers went into Banks’ office. According to Bonilla, Banks stated the reason she could not have the sign at the march was that her sign was different than what the March for Life event stood for.

After meeting with Banks, Bonilla took to Instagram to express her frustration with the university. In her Instagram stories, she expressed the way in which SFU markets that they are an “inclusive learning community that welcomes all people,” but her and Rogers’ experience at the March for Life event proves otherwise.

“You know what, I’m going to make sure that I keep my school accountable for their words,” Bonilla said in reference to what she stated in her Instagram stories.

“It did not seem all-inclusive,” said Rogers. “She had that poster to make it a more inclusive march about pro-life.”

According to University Police Officer Christopher Lytle, one individual who participated in the event informed one of the officers of Bonilla’s sign. “The person approached us and said ‘listen, they are not causing any problems, but they are just not taking part in everything,’” Lytle said.

Lytle continued to say that the officer stated to Bonilla that she had every right to hold the sign, but SFU policy states that she must have a permit. “That was the extent of our contact with her,” Lytle said. “A respectful ‘no.’ No issues with anybody.”

SFU’s Student Assembly and Speech policy encourages students to raise their concerns on campus using appropriate measures. In order for a student to orchestrate a march or get approval of a sign, the student must bring their request to Banks five days prior to the scheduled event. Once Banks approves the march or the displayed sign, the student will be given a permit that outlines the date, time, and place of the event.

“We’re not going to say yes or no whether a student can have an event,” Banks said when asked about the requirements of getting a sign or a function approved, “but we want to be aware so that we can provide support for a student.” As a student development professional, Banks stated that she likes to encourage students to create dialogue about their passions and concerns.

Banks also commented on her interaction she had with Bonilla the day the March for Life event took place. Banks and Bonilla brainstormed ways in which Bonilla could spread her message across campus. One of the ways Banks said that Bonilla could get her message across was to host a CES event. “She would have the opportunity to engage (students) about the issue she was concerned about so that they can have a chance to talk,” said Banks.

Bonilla had proposed an alternative idea for her to express the pressing issues she is passionate about. “I said, ‘Theoretically, if I had a march that was all-inclusive of all people, like very diverse, could I do it?’ She said ‘I don’t see the problem with that,’” Bonilla said.

As the co-president of Blue Stockings Society, Bonilla and her club are scheduling a march on campus that highlights the message that all lives are valuable and emphasizes the oppression that many women and minority groups face today.

“We’re planning on having Father Dan bless the march,” said Bonilla. “We are going to have a vigil for Me Too survivors of sexual assault and, again, Father Dan is going to be there to say prayers for them.

“This is for everyone to go to. What’s great about the march, too, is that there are going to be a lot of events that are very diverse and that anyone can come to.”

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Student’s sign leads to her being asked to leave SFU function