‘Baking With Fire’

April 18, 2005

Last week, John Leo wrote a great article in U.S. News and World Report about the
attempts to suppress latest round of affirmative action bake sales. He
illustrates one of the most interesting facets of these cases:

Opponents of these bake sales will use
almost any argument to shut them down. At the University of Washington,
the administration said the sponsor had failed to get a food permit. At Grand Valley,
the university counsel argued that the sale of a single cupcake would convert
political commentary into forbidden campus commerce. At Eastern
Washington, the varying prices were denounced as unfair marketing.
At Texas A&M, the athletics director argued that a satirical bake sale
would damage the sports teams by making it harder to recruit minority players.
Apart from the complaint that opposition to affirmative action is evidence of
bias, the most common tactic used against the sales is the “heckler’s veto”: Disruptions
may occur, but instead of protecting the cookie sellers, the colleges decree
that sales must be banned.

This has certainly been FIRE’s experience in our previous
cases bake sale cases. At UC Irvine and the University of Colorado,
both administrations claimed
the bake sales constituted “discrimination,” while at William and Mary the
administration shut down a bake sale by citing
“administrative requirements.” After FIRE became involved, however, those
schools relented and allowed the protest to proceed.

Leo concludes:

In terms of the hothouse campus
culture, suppression seems normal. But the censors can’t justify in public what
they do in private. The lesson for pastry rebels is to get in touch with FIRE
and take the issue public as early as possible.

Thank you, John! We appreciate the plug and hope to bring
all of the latest bake sale cases to a successful conclusion.