Student newspaper vandalized for pro-life ad

Nearly half of the copies of the school's official newspaper were destroyed.

An ad for a pregnancy center was circled in black marker.

Dozens of Drake University (DU) student newspapers were vandalized last week after a pro-life advertisement upset an unknown perpetrator.

Austin Cannon, managing editor of The Times-Delphic, found 431 copies of his paper, apparently drenched in water, sitting in front of the newspaper’s office Thursday morning, an act of vandalism estimated at $200 worth of damage. Atop the pile was a single newspaper with a black circle drawn around an advertisement for AGAPE Pregnancy Resource Center, which offers free pregnancy tests, STD testing, and ultrasounds.

“I was disappointed that something like this would happen on our campus,” Cannon told Campus Reform. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

Cannon told Campus Reform that more than 1,000 copies of the paper were distributed around campus prior to the vandalism, meaning almost half of the papers were destroyed.

University president David Maxwell addressed faculty, staff, and students Friday in an email, calling the vandalism “antithetical” to Drake’s “core values.”

“This act goes beyond mere vandalism — it is an attempt to curtail First Amendment rights regarding free speech, and is thus antithetical to our core values as the Drake University community,” Maxwell wrote in the email. “[W]e should all be outraged by an act that not only entails the destruction of others’ property, but is intended to communicate a message in a manner that violates our sense of who we are and what we stand for as a university.”

Prior to the vandalism, Beth Younger, a professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at DU, wrote a letter to the editor, expressing concern with advertisements for AGAPE Pregnancy Resource Center. Such centers, she said are “largely fronts for anti-choice, anti-abortion organizations and they are known for providing misleading information to young women who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy.”

Younger urged the newspaper staff to publish a disclaimer alongside the ad “so young women won’t be fooled into thinking they can get free health care, when what they get is propaganda and harmful lies.”

Scott Law, the Director of Public Safety at DU, told Campus Reform that the vandalism is an “active investigation” and that Younger is not considered a lead in the case. However, Maxwell’s campus-wide email did cite Younger’s published letter in an effort to “to catalyze debate.”

“Those who have concerns about the agency that paid for the advertisement have every right to express those concerns and to catalyze debate, as Prof. Younger has done in her letter to the editor,” wrote the president.

“It’s just a little disheartening to me because it doesn’t mean we support that organization, and we’ve run ads from Planned Parenthood in the past,” The Times-Delphic’s Editor-in-Chief, Courtney Fishman, said in an interview with KCCI. “So it’s interesting to me that people are upset about it, and they’re very welcome to be upset about it, but it’s upsetting that they’re vandalizing our property.”

Fishman says the paper received complaints from others who disapprove of the resource center.

“It’s sad that it happened,” Brenda Knollenberg, executive director for AGAPE told Campus Reform. “I appreciate the openness of ‘if you don’t agree with something, to be able to voice that.’ I think that is what the United States was founded on...and I am grateful for that. I do think that sometimes more research has to go into people’s opinions just to make sure they have their facts correct.”

Younger did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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