Universities shut down affirmative action bake sales

Administrators at the University of California at Irvine andSouthern Methodist University shut down student Republican and conservativegroups’ affirmative action bake sales last week, a violation, studentssay, of their right to free speech and symbolicexpression.Administrators at UC-Irvine, a public school, cited ananti-discrimination policy when they forced the students to halt the on-campussale on Sept. 25. The bake sale featured cookies with prices that ranged from$1.00 for white males to $.10 for American Indian females.The studentsinvolved in the sale, however, said the sale was not intended to make money butrather to make a political point by charging different prices to differentethnic and gender groups. Because they say the sale was symbolic speech, itshould receive First Amendment protection.“The bake sale was purepolitical satire and [should have] enjoyed the fullest protections under theFirst Amendment,” said Bryan Zuetel, president of the UC-Irvine CollegeRepublicans.The incident occurred after students from a Latino studentgroup, MEChA, notified Dean of Students Sally Peterson about the bake sale.Peterson then told the students that the different prices violatedUC-Irvine’s anti-discriminatory policies, Zuetel said.Zuetel saidhe told Peterson the group would change the prices to suggested prices in orderto make its point.“Peterson said that this was a violation of thepolicy,” Zuetel said, “at which point she shut usdown.”Peterson did not respond to requests forcomment.Greg Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy for theFoundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has written a letter insupport of the College Republicans to campus administrators, noted that if thestudents had been engaged in an actual business, they would likely have violatedanti-discrimination policies.“If this was sincerely an attempt todiscriminate on the basis of race, [shutting down the bake sale] would bedifferent.” But, Lukianoff said, the bake sale “is certainlysymbolic, satirical speech.”The UC-Irvine bake sale was one ofmany bake sales sponsored by college Republican and conservative groups acrossthe country as a method of demonstrating their opposition to affirmativeaction.The Young Conservatives of Texas held a similar bake sale at theprivate Southern Methodist University in Dallas Sept. 23 until studentcomplained to administrators and they shut it down, citing ananti-discrimination policy.David Rushing, chairman of the YCT chapter atSMU said in a statement: “This event was obviously symbolic speech, not anattempt to set up a bakery.”He added that the club only sold a fewdollars worth of baked goods.Because UC-Irvine is a public university,students there enjoy greater free-speech protections than students at privateuniversities.The UC-Irvine College Republicans are waiting a response toFIRE’s letter before they decide what, if any, further action totake.“We’d like the administration to acknowledge our freespeech rights,” Zuetel said.