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Prof put on leave for leading vandalism of pro-life display

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (BP)–A Northern Kentucky University professor who instigated the destruction of a school-approved, pro-life display was placed on leave April 17.

NKU President Jim Votruba announced the action April 18, saying literature professor Sally Jacobsen had been removed from her classes through the end of the semester. Jacobsen already had decided to retire after the semester to close 27 years of teaching at the school.

Jacobsen reportedly led about 10 students April 12 in removing and throwing in the trash 400 crosses that made up a pro-life display titled the “Cemetery of the Innocents.” A sign for the display, which was set up by the Northern Kentucky Right to Life student organization, also was destroyed.

Jacobson acknowledged she invited students during a break in a British literature class to destroy the display, according to The Cincinnati Post. She asked “if any students wanted to participate in practicing their freedom of speech in destroying the very offensive right-to-life, anti-abortion display in the central plaza” of NKU, the newspaper reported.

Jacobsen declined to say if she took part, but a photo in the Internet edition of the school’s newspaper April 13 appeared to show her destroying the display’s sign, while small, white crosses lay on the ground around her, according to The Post.

In a written statement, Votruba said what Jacobsen had done was “inconsistent” with the university’s “commitment to free and open debate and the opportunity for all sides to be heard without threat of censorship or reprisal.”

Jacobsen’s “lapse of judgment was severe and, for a period of time, has caused some in our community and beyond to question whether Northern Kentucky University upholds freedom of expression. My answer to this question is an unequivocal yes.”

The NKU faculty senate approved a resolution strongly supporting the school’s obligation to protect freedom of expression, Votruba told The Post.

Jacobsen, who has tenure, will not lose any retirement benefits, Votruba said, according to the newspaper. The punishment “should be considered in the context” of Jacobsen’s 27-year career, he said.

The investigation into the incident is continuing. No penalties have been announced for the students who took part in the vandalism.

Each of the 400 crosses in the pro-life “cemetery” represented 10 abortions that occur daily in the United States. The right to life group had set up the display for a week with the school’s permission, The Post reported. The 15-member organization reconstructed the display shortly after the crosses were recovered.

With about 14,000 students, NKU is located in Highland Heights, which is seven miles south of Cincinnati.

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