As a senator for the College of Liberal Arts and the chair of the Health & Safety Committee, Samantha Bivins’ personal philosophy of life is to improve any situation she comes across, and to politically advocate for mental health issues in the United States.
When a few individuals who attended the Involvement Fair expressed concern to Bivins regarding controversial images displayed on materials provided by UNLV pro-life group Students for Life (SFL), she knew it was her duty to inform the senate.
During a Jan. 30 CSUN meeting, Bivins addressed her fellow senators during public comment about the organization, which received approval for funding at the previous Jan. 23 meeting.
She explained to them that UNLV SFL distributed materials that displayed images contrary to what they stated in their proposal.
As a pro-life organization, UNLV SFL aims to inform students about abortion and aid pregnant women who face unplanned pregnancies on campus.
A funding proposal letter written by UNLV SFL representative Clare Finley states that the organization “recognizes the sensitivity of and broad ranging spectrum of belief on the topic of abortion.”
However, the organization had a booth at the Involvement Fair where they provided students with pamphlets, brochures and flyers displaying images that Bivins described to be “of violent nature.” They showed images of ultrasounds with faces of fetuses and the small, bloody hands of aborted fetuses, according to Bivins.
Bivins recalled that during their presentation, she specifically asked the organization if they would be displaying explicit images that could possibly elicit a traumatic experience for individuals on campus.
“They point-blank said, ‘no,’” Bivins said.
But in the eyes of Mikaela Clark, a representative from UNLV SFL, the photos simply depict the stages of fetal development.
“I don’t see what is offensive about the development of a human being. It is basic biology of human life,” Clark said.
Clark believes that as college students, abortion should be openly discussed.
“If people think pictures of fetuses is offensive or controversial, that is unfortunate,” Clark said.
Bivins made it clear that she made public comment to the senate not because the organization is pro-life, but because the organization displayed images contrary to what they described on public record to the senate.
“My problem with this had nothing to do with the fact that they were handing out anti-abortion pamphlets. That’s their right,” Bivins said. “But if you have lied to the senate before on public record, why would we fund you to go traumatize people campus? How are we supporting the students by doing that?”
She expressed genuine concern for the students who may have been provoked by the images and urged the senate to think twice if the organization requests funding again in the future.
Speaking as a representative of the senate, Bivins iterated multiple times that CSUN’s stance on student funding is not to be partisan in any type of way. She believes that all organizations, including UNLV SFL, have a right to advocate for their purpose or cause.
“CSUN does not have any political affiliation whatsoever on a Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or any party side at all. Our job is not to dictate to student organizations what they are allowed to advocate for or against,” Bivins said. “Our job is to give student money to student organizations to fund what their purpose is and what their cause is.”
At the time of their original presentation to CSUN, SFL requested $3,050 for various costs needed to transport large pieces of art to an event out-of-state. The money—as stated in their funding request—was said to cover travel expenses, event expenses and more, for 12 staff members.
But the funding provided by CSUN is no longer available since the organization will not be attending the out-of-state event they originally planned to go to, according to Bivins.
“I just want to urge you all that if this organization does come up for funding to us again, I think we should keep in mind that they came here asking for money and they lied,” Bivins said to the senate.
Editor’s Note: Bianca Cseke, the editor-in-chief of the UNLV Scarlet & Gray Free Press, and Samantha Bivins, the CSUN senator who appears in this story, participate in the same student organization. Cseke did not participate in reporting or editing this story.