EXCLUSIVE: Virginia Tech prof accuses student of spreading misinformation, threatens to delete discussion board posts

A pro-life student at Virginia Tech was publicly accused of spreading misinformation by her professor after submitting a discussion board assignment expressing pro-life views.

Exclusive screenshots and audio of the events that unfolded were obtained by Campus Reform.

A pro-life student at Virginia Tech was publicly accused of spreading misinformation by her professor after submitting a discussion board assignment, according to screenshots and other material obtained by Campus Reform

Dr. Liora O’Donnell Goldensher, the professor in question, taught the "Abortion in Society" course during the Winter 2022-23 semester.

One of the assignments, a discussion board post, required students to share their thoughts regarding the reasoning behind getting an abortion, Virginia Tech student and Leadership Institute employee Alyssa Jones informed Campus Reform.

Being a pro-life student, Jones cited her experience with the movement, along with other sources, explaining why she is against abortion.

“Through my work, I’ve learned how important it is to support post-abortive and abortion-minded women. I’m not an ally of abortion, but I will always be an ally of women,” Jones wrote.

In the rest of Jones’ post, she argues against the use and alleged safety of abortifacient drugs.

Although citations are seen throughout Jones’ post, Goldensher publicly accused her of spreading “misinformation.”

In a message that is visible to the entire class, Goldensher wrote, “Alyssa’s citing some misinformation that’s important to correct.”

Goldensher continues by arguing that “some people feel that [abortion] ends a life, and is thus unsafe for that life. But as the course guidelines state, in this course, we won’t be debating the question of whether terminating a pregnancy is ending a life, and we won’t be trying to convince one another of a particular answer to that question.”

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I was absolutely baffled that she had the audacity to make these statements in front of the whole class rather than taking two minutes to send these comments as an email,” Jones told Campus Reform

She also explained that there is a difference between labeling misinformation and censoring viewpoints.

Goldensher's concern about misinformation is valid to an extent,” Jones said. “Yes, it is important to properly cite information from reputable sources. However, labeling scientific facts such as ‘life begins at conception’ as misinformation falls outside the scope of reasonable concern and is more aligned with censorship.”

Following an exchange of comments on the discussion board post, Jones scheduled an online meeting with Goldensher to express some concerns with her.

Campus Reform obtained an audio recording of the meeting, in which the professor is questioned by Jones about the comments made on her assignment.

“I hadn’t really been thinking the way you want me to I guess,” Jones said to Goldensher. “I didn’t say anything that was factually incorrect in my discussion post, and I’m just a little bit confused as to why you told the class that I was spreading misinformation.”

Instead of providing an example of misinformation spread by Jones, Goldensher recommends a course on campus that focuses on the topic. The professor also shares that she has “a commitment to flagging” misinformation.

Jones then pushes back regarding the professor’s threat to remove posts from the discussion board.

“That really concerns me. It’s unconstitutional - plain, flat, simple - against Tinker v. Des Moines,” Jones said. “I’m really hoping that none of my posts ever get removed. That’s something that as a student I can’t tolerate.”

Jones continues by saying, “I’m not going to be limiting my speech. I’m not going to feel like I’m going to be undermined for my speech or mocked. I’m not going to be made a spectacle of in front of the class.”

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She also informs Goldensher of factually correct terms that she will continue to use.

“‘Pregnant patient?’ Women only get pregnant, it’s pregnant women. ‘Life begins at conception’ is something that I know to be factually correct. I’m going to be using it because it’s accurate to me. If the rest of the class doesn’t want to believe me, that’s fine.”

Jones’ statement is backed by the science of human embryology.

As Campus Reform previously reported, "In his 2019 doctoral dissertation in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago... Steven Jacobs surveyed 5,557 biologists, the majority of which identified non-religious and liberal, on the question of when human life begins. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed 'affirmed the view that a human life begins at fertilization.'"

At the end of the meeting, Jones asks her professor if any of her posts will be removed in the future. Goldensher abruptly responded by saying “I haven’t removed any posts,” then she concluded the call.

Jones expressed to Campus Reform that she is “worried that my and other students' posts will be taken down. Even if I saw this response on a student's post with a viewpoint that I disagreed with, I still would have spoken up. This is not a matter of defending my viewpoint, but a much bigger issue of a standard that academic institutions and professors should hold themselves to."

"Free speech and expression are vital to an effective learning environment, and the actions Dr. Goldensher threatened to take affect the learning experience of all students in her class regardless of their viewpoints. No student should have to walk on eggshells to avoid docked grades,” Jones told Campus Reform. 

Jones ended up receiving a 55% on the assignment and scheduled a follow-up meeting with her professor. 

Campus Reform reached out to each party mentioned and this article will be updated accordingly.

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