CHICAGO, January 30, 2006—Earlier this month, DePaul University shut down an “affirmative action bake sale” protest, and is now investigating a student organizer for “harassment.” DePaul’s latest offense against liberty follows its 2005 dismissal of a professor for arguing with pro-Palestinian students and its censorship of students’ peaceful protest of controversial professor Ward Churchill. With this incident, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is intervening at DePaul for the third time in less than a year.
“DePaul cannot seem to resist punishing its students and professors for expressing their political viewpoints,” stated Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s interim president. “Fighting repression at DePaul is becoming a full-time job.”
DePaul’s latest foray into censorship began on January 17, when the DePaul Conservative Alliance (DCA) held an “affirmative action bake sale” at a table in the student center. Affirmative action bake sales are a widely used form of satirical protest against affirmative action. Organizers display a menu on which black and Hispanic students are charged lower prices than Asian and white students for the same items. The bake sales are intended to spark debate about affirmative action policies, not to raise revenue. At DePaul, the protest did just that, drawing a crowd of people who argued about the issue vehemently but peacefully.
“If DePaul cannot even describe the supposed problem with the protest, why is it conducting this absurd inquisition?” asked FIRE’s Lukianoff. “The mere fact that a protest might upset people does not make it harassment. DePaul’s abuse of a harassment policy to engage in political persecution must end.”
FIRE wrote DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider
on January 23, saying that “the shutting down of the bake sale protest, as well as the harassment investigation of O’Shea, indicate a dismaying disregard for freedom of expression and open debate at DePaul.” FIRE also pointed out DePaul’s dismal record of support for free expression, and noted the Catholic university’s promise that “[s]tudents have the right to their own ideas, beliefs and political associations. Students have the right to ask questions and express their opinions….” Yet even after drawing nationwide scorn for dismissing a professor for his views
and tearing down Republican students’ flyers
, DePaul continues to claim
that it “absolutely firmly believes in free speech for students” and that “giving students the opportunity to explore different point of views” is “what the university is about.” Holtschneider has yet to respond to FIRE’s letter.
“Every time DePaul is caught abusing the free speech rights of its students and faculty, it responds by saying how much it really adores free speech. Well, FIRE and the public are having a hard time believing that. DePaul’s illiberal actions speak far louder than its empty words,” concluded Lukianoff.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at DePaul University can be viewed at thefire.org/depaul