Sophia Schuster never expected the pushback she has received in trying to form an officially recognized Students for Life group on campus.
Schuster started taking the necessary steps to form the group last year, but by the time she found an advisor and everything was in place, COVID hit. When she returned this year, she started working on it again.
With a Planned Parenthood a mile from campus, Schuster said the group is necessary. Abortions are performed at the clinic on Tuesday mornings. The famous UNI clocktower can be seen from the clinic, as well as the UNI-Dome.
“I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that it’s there,” Schuster said. “I know that many of the women who have abortions do not want to. And, so I just wanted to be that voice for the local pregnancy center to say, ‘Hey, you have options.’ I think a lot of girls need support and they have it, but they don’t know it. I just wanted to show women at UNI that there is a community at UNI that would go to great lengths to help them choose life. Choosing life is an option for them even though a lot of women don’t think that. I just wanted to make UNI a place that loves our fellow students and our peers.”
Some alterations to the constitution were made and the proposed group had its fate placed in the hands of the UNI Student Government Senate.
“They struck us down,” Schuster said. “They rejected our application because they didn’t like us. That’s pretty much the only reason.”
It wasn’t long after the appeal process started. The group’s fate was now left up to the UNI Student Government Supreme Court.
Schuster said that Students for Life charged the legislators rejected them not on any error in the constitution but based on opinions about Students for Life.
Student government pled guilty. Schuster, and the representative for student government, left.
“Instead of voting on it, some members of the supreme court decided to assume the role of the defendant and they brought some arguments about how Students for Life wasn’t formed in good faith or for lawful purpose,” Schuster said. “So they decided the Senate was justified in their rejection of our application.
“They pled guilty, I was feeling good and I went home. Then at night I checked my mail and I was absolutely floored. I was so surprised. I could not believe it.”
Schuster didn’t expect this level of resistance.
“I kind of watched the original debate during the Senate, and I was kind of surprised at some of the stuff they were saying, but I thought our constitution is good so they’ll vote us in,” she said. “They didn’t. They rejected us. I was surprised, but I wasn’t too worried. We got an appeal and tried to everything straightened out.”
The injustice upset Schuster, who claims the court overstepped its boundaries.
“They did not do their role as justices,” she said. “I was really shocked. Now I’m just going to hope for the best.”
UNI President Mark Nook is the next step. Schuster said the group is hopeful Nook will hear their appeal, but isn’t assuming anything anymore.
“If he does anything for us, it’ll be rejecting the supreme court’s rejection of our appeal,” she said. “I think that is what’s going to happen. So, if he hears our appeal and he agrees with us, then that overturns the supreme court ruling, which might overturn the senate. I think that’s what is going to happen, but I’m not entirely sure.”
How can she be?
What message has the student government sent to people like Schuster on UNI’s campus?
“Overall the message is that we don’t care about your rights as students,” she said. “I mean, they have completely thrown out all guidelines. They all have thrown out their credibility at this point. They’re telling the students that we don’t want you here, we don’t care about your rights or your opinions.”