OXFORD, OH (FOX19) - What some consider to be a controversial pro-life cross display at Miami University in Oxford has now become a target for repeated vandalism.
Once every school year, Miami University’s “Students for Life” group puts up dozens of crosses. One by one, the members hammer them into the ground and line them up, as a way of expressing their pro-life, anti-abortion message. This year, on the Oxford campus, there is a counter-protest in place, showing support for those who are pro-choice.
“We all have the freedom to express our views, and we can be respectful about that," said Ellen Wittman, the President of Miami’s Students for Life group.
It is a passionate topic that brings out passionate opinions. Still, Wittman said that does not explain the repeated vandalism.
In April, the pro-life cross display on Miami’s Hamilton campus was hit by vandals twice. Now, the Oxford campus has become a target too.
“Can’t say I was surprised by it, but this time, the vandalism was so harsh and happened so many times within a short period, that it really shook our group, and we were really sorry to see it," said Wittman.
Just hours after the group put up the Oxford cross display this year, Wittman said someone knocked the display’s sign down.
Then, a short time later, Sarah Wilhelm, the Social Chair of the group, said she discovered the site had been vandalized two more times.
“I actually passed by, and there were about 40 crosses in the recycling bin, and then the second time I passed by, about an hour and a half later, our whole display had been vandalized," said Wilhelm. "It was in piles on the lawn.”
In response, the Dean of Students shared a letter with the entire campus on Wednesday. It said:
Last night, the Students for Life display of crosses on the Hub was vandalized. Miami University Police are investigating. Such destructive behavior is not acceptable in our community and we must all join together to condemn it in the strongest possible terms. All Miami University students and student organizations have the right to free speech. As a result, the University does not approve or disapprove of any student organization’s display based on its content. Our values call us to protect the rights of our students and student organizations. They insist we hold and express disparate beliefs and encourage the discussion and learning that comes from sharing our differences of experience, opinion, or viewpoint. With a student body of over 17,000 undergraduates and 500+ registered student organizations, every student at Miami is likely to hear or see something with which they do not agree. We do not expect students to agree with every idea espoused by a student organization but we compel all students to take the opportunity to learn and gain from the experience. It is not unusual for student organization displays to generate conversations that in fact deepens our understanding of, and commitment to, those qualities we most value. Love and Honor,
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students"
Miami University Police are investigating the vandalism.
“I know they’re doing extra patrol at night which is very helpful," said Wilhelm.
Wittman said they just want it to stop.
“We just hope it doesn’t happen again. Period,” said Wittman.
A Miami University spokesperson said that when the cross display was vandalized in April 2018 at the Hamilton campus, a pro-choice group’s counter-protest display was also damaged at that time.
She said there was a good outcome in that both groups supported each other’s right to free speech.