Earlier this week, television host and commentator John Stossel held an "affirmative action bake sale" in a midtown Manhattan shopping center—a common act of political protest on college campuses. Stossel met some criticism during the event, though at least there were no Bucknell University administrators around to try to tell him that holding his satirical bake sale was against the law, as was the case with the Bucknell University Conservatives Club. Stossel visits FIRE’s case at Bucknell at length in his nationally syndicated column today, quoting FIRE’s Adam Kissel:
All the Bucknell students wanted was a campus discussion about [affirmative action]. Why not? A university is supposed to be a place for open discussion, but some topics are apparently off-limits.
About an hour after the students began their "affirmative action" sale, the associate dean of students shut it down. He said it was because the prices charged were different from those listed on the permissions application. An offer to change the prices was rejected. Then the club’s application to hold another sale was rejected. Ironically, the associate dean said it would violate the schools nondiscrimination policy! He would authorize a debate on affirmative action, but nothing else.
How ridiculous! Fortunately, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has come to the students’ defense.
"Using this absurd logic, Bucknell would have to require its College Democrats to say nothing political on campus unless they give equal time to Republican candidates at their events, or its Catholic Campus Ministry to remain silent about abortion unless it holds a debate and invites pro-choice activists to speak," FIRE’s Adam Kissel said. "While students are free to host debates, they must not be required to provide a platform for their ideological opponents. Rather, those opponents must be free to spread their own messages and host their own events."
Stossel’s column also discusses another incident that landed Bucknell in hot water—its suppression of the BUCC’s "stimulus" protest:
Affirmative action wasn’t the only issue that brought conservative Bucknell students grief. When they tried to protest President Obama’s $787 billion "stimulus" spending last year by handing out fake dollar bills, the school stopped them for violating rules against soliciting! According to FIRE, Bucknell’s solicitation policy covers only sales and fundraising, which the students were not engaged in, but the school rejected the students’ appeal, saying permission was needed to distribute "anything, from Bibles to other matter." Absurd! The Bucknell administration tells me it stopped the anti-stimulus protest because the students had not registered to use that busy campus space. FIRE disputes that.
"Distributing protest literature is an American free-speech tradition that dates to before the founding of the United States," Kissel said. "Why is Bucknell so afraid of students handing out ‘Bibles (or) other matter’ that might provide challenging perspectives? Colleges are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, but Bucknell is betraying this ideal."
Stossel appeared last night on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss his bake sale experiment, and he highlighted FIRE’s case at Bucknell as indicative of the feverish political correctness of today’s campus. And, of course, he’ll be discussing the Bucknell case case on his Fox Business Network program Stossel on Thursday evening with FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Bucknell University student Kirby Thomas, who was a 2010 FIRE summer intern. Former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes will be a guest as well, discussing his case and his ongoing legal battle. Clayton Smith, one of the students who defeated Tarrant County College’s free speech zone and other unconstitutional policies in federal court earlier this year, also will join the program. Tune in to Stossel tomorrow evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for an exciting discussion of political correctness and what FIRE is doing to restore free speech on campus!