The New Hampshire Union Leader loves attacking UNH. That's nothing new. It loves to denigrate UNH as a center of liberalism, a waste of taxpayer dollars and a hotbed of elitist professors out to indoctrinate tender young minds. We're used to hearing the Union Leader complain about anything and everything when it comes to the university. Generally, it objects to major university decisions. Last week, it editorialized about something a lot smaller – one Facebook page out of dozens associated with the university.
After criticizing the fact that the UNH President's Commission on the Status of Women still existed, the editorial turned on its Facebook page, which it said was "one-sided political activism through social media" before detailing a few of the recent links shared on the page.
"By using staff time to advocate divisive political causes on the Internet, UNH is damaging its own credibility at a critical time," the editorial ended.
That surprised us this week was that the administration kowtowed to pressure from the Union Leader and asked the commission to remove their page.
The editorial's complaint is that UNH is a public institution and should not be commenting on political issues. But this is only a partisan issue if you believe treating women like human beings is a political statement.
"One-sided political activism through social media can be a legitimate tactic for private organizations, but not for a public institution," the editorial reads. "The university's administration cannot deny responsibility for these angry partisan polemics."
The President's Commission on the Status of Women's current initiatives include studies into work/family life balance, workplace bullying, and pay equity, as well as the Violence Against Women Committee. The Facebook page in question included posts about the furor surrounding birth control coverage and a repost of a call to put pressure on legislators to vote against legislation that would restrict access to basic women's healthcare.
Any organization that works to protect and research women's issues had a busy year in 2011. There were over 1,100 pieces of legislation enacted last year that sought to reduce or eliminate women's access to health care – attacks that were most damaging to low-income women. In many cases these pieces of legislation sought to restrict access to simple, routine, and often lifesaving exams like mammograms and pap smears alongside more controversial issues like HBC and abortion. It's a scary time to be a vagina owner in America.
The editorial suggests that the commission is obsolete because women no longer are barred from attending classes or joining the faculty. Women are afforded the same rights under the law as men, so – in the editorial's view – they should stop whining.
The Union Leader editorial is attacking the Commission on the Status of Women for holding "partisan" views, when in reality the commission has simply been working to educate the UNH community about issues that affect 51 percent of the community. Regardless of your beliefs when it comes to hot-button issues like abortion, all women – scratch that, all people – have a stake in issues like pay equity, rape, and domestic violence.
We are disappointed that the administration put pressure on the President's Commission on the Status of Women Issues to suspend their Facebook page, and we hope that the page will be live again soon. Because – to quote Hillary Clinton – women's rights are human rights. There shouldn't be anything political about it.