Thursday, November 06, 2003

State-run universities have to respect free speech, yes? First Amendment and all that? Heh. Let's say the record is mixed.

The latest hip thing among College Republicans is do an affirmative action bake sale. White males pay a buck; women and Hispanics and some other minorities pay less; blacks pay even less than them. Hardly anyone buys cookies, but of course that's not the point.

At Indiana university such a bake sale inspired criticism by the expected student groups. This was all well and good competition in the marketplace of ideas. However, at least one student who "asked school officials to stop the sale," indicating not everyone was paying attention in high school civics (or worse, they paid attention but decided they didn't fully believe in free speech). The administrators rightfully did not interfere with the bake sale, and the young budding censors presumably whined or sulked.

This isn't always what happens. It often appears that Indiana University is the exception, though it's quite possible that my perception is biased by the fact that uneventful things like the bake sale at Indiana University get much less news coverage than the travesties that have happened at other colleges. I've read multiple accounts of conservative student publications being stolen and of violence and threats of violence by other students against conservatives at their public events. And in all these accounts the college administration did not punish these criminal acts; if there was any response it was to denounce the viewpoint the conservatives were expressing.

Consider the affirmative action bake sale at the University of Washington.
On the list were prices per cookie, ranging from 25 cents to a dollar per cookie based on the race of the buyer, with the highest price to whites.

A sign was posted: "Affirmative Action Is Racism."

Jason Chambers, 22, was one of the sellers. For a few hours, he said, students came to talk, some agreeing, some arguing. It was civil. At 12:30 it changed. An insistent crowd of about 200 massed around the display. A couple of students ripped down the sign, scattered donuts and threw a box of cookies at a seller's head....Campus police intervened and student adviser Phillip Hunt asked the Republicans to stop the sale. Hunt's assistant, Rene Singleton, recalled, "The College Republicans were pinned against a brick wall. It was a safety issue."
So instead of protecting students' right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the police capitulated to the mob. I bet they could have just told everyone to stay civil. The only alternative possibility is that this crowd was actually angry enough to fight with the police. Therefore either the police don't believe in free speech or a lot of students don't believe in free speech. It gets worse:
Then came an extraordinarily pusillanimous statement from the University of Washington Regents. Issued after two weeks of thought, it was signed by Gerald Grinstein of Madrona Investment Partners, president of the regents. It said that the bake sale had been "tasteless" and "hurtful."

"We are deeply disappointed," the regents said, "that the College Republicans' bake sale's 'statement' did not embrace the basic value of respect for its student colleagues."

Were the regents also disappointed in those who tore down the sign and threw the box of cookies at a student's head? No. The regents didn't mention them. The regents proclaimed freedom of speech and condemned only those who had exercised it.
The UW regents don't believe in freedom of speech either.

All this has been roundly condemned from the outside. The link above from which I've been quoting is from the Seattle Times, a conservative newspaper. Here's a liberal columnist at the liberal Seattle P-I denouncing the UW Regents. Since most students probably aren't zealous enough to devote their best years to suing colleges, these sorts of injustices need to be put under the limelight as much as possible, because college depend on the outside world to fund it. Though I doubt I'll ever be rich, after I graduate from MIT I do not plan to give them any money until, among other things, they reform their oppressive harassment policy, which gives anyone who knows how to say "I'm offended" the capability to make my life miserable as long as I'm a student here.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home