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November 29, 2022

SGA judiciary rules in favor of Voice for Life

By ASHLEY EMERY | April 11, 2013

The JHU SGA Judiciary unanimously ruled to overturn the decision of the SGA Senate to deny official group status to Voice For Life (VFL). SGA will hereby grant VFL group status as an advocacy and awareness group, and it will be granted all rights and privileges as such.

As any other advocacy and awareness group, it will not receive a lump sum budget from the Student Activities Commission (SAC) at the beginning of the year, but it will be able to apply for funding through monthly grants.

In the VFL v. JHU SGA trial, VFL President freshman Andrew Guernsey said that they approached the argument as a free speech issue.

“We did frame this as a free speech issue. It’s a matter of fundamental fairness for everyone based on the SGA acting in a viewpoint-neutral manner when approving or denying groups,” he said.

As the organization initially applied as an advocacy and awareness group, and never would have received funding as such, the conflict did not lie  in whether the SAC would finance the VFL activity.

Freshman Kyra Toomre, co-Counselor representing the SGA in the trial, detailed that the SGA held to their original decision throughout the trial to protect the interests of the student body.

“SGA fought to uphold our decision and we were overturned. We can assure the JHU student body that your elected representatives fought for your concerns and for the betterment of the Hopkins community,” Toomre wrote in an email to The News-Letter. 

Similarly, the VFL stuck by their original positions, and did not revise their platform since they originally applied, nor their definition of sidewalk counseling.

“We haven’t changed any of our intentions. I think we have been accepted as we originally applied,” Guernsey said.

The SGA counsel still hopes that the University’s administration will restrict the use of its name and funds to prevent intimidation of women and the dissemination of misinformation.

“The SGA counsel remains convinced that the group’s proposed activity of ‘sidewalk counseling’ under the imprimatur of The Johns Hopkins University will lend undo credibility to that activity and the statements made during it,” Toomre wrote.

The SGA counsel believes that there is a lack of information in support of the pro-life movement on campus, but that VFL would not represent the position well because of their means of communication.

Guernsey, however, praised the Judiciary for protecting his organization’s right to free speech.

“We hope that our story of rising above discriminatory opposition can inspire pro-life students around the country to courageously take a stand for life at their own college campuses,” Guernsey wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

As an approved club, VFL has full access to University resources for transportation and advertising, in addition to the use of the Hopkins name, logo and seal per university guidelines.

The club also can host and publicize for their events on campus and conduct fundraising activities on campus.

In order to finance its approved activities, VFL will seek Student Activities Commission (SAC) grants, according to Guernsey.

The SGA has acknowledged several flaws in its system of SAC group approval and its Constitution.

“I would like to conduct a student referendum in order [to] amend the Constitution to fix many of these flaws so a case like this never occurs again. These amendments would include criteria for group approval,” Toomre wrote.

SGA is also considering reforming their SAC group categories and group application process.


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