John Stossel’s "affirmative action bake sale," which I highlighted here yesterday, is continuing to make waves in advance of FIRE’s appearance on his program this evening. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Stossel’s visit with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, where he previews tonight’s Stossel program with FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and students from FIRE cases at Bucknell University (Kirby Thomas), Tarrant County College (Clayton Smith), and Valdosta State University (Hayden Barnes).
The seven-minute segment with Megyn Kelly on Fox’s America Live covers Bucknell University’s repeated violations of its own free speech promises when it shut down the "affirmative action bake sale" of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC). As the video of the shutdown shows, the Bucknell bake sale was shut down because of a minor paperwork discrepancy, proving once again that Bucknell is lying about why it shut down the bake sale.
FIRE has learned that Bucknell continues to lie about why the bake sale was shut down, writing recently to a journalist that it shut down the bake sale "because state and federal laws prohibit discrimination." That’s a flat-out lie; just watch the video. It was not until later, when BUCC tried to hold a new bake sale, that Bucknell came up with the new—and false—idea that such bake sales are illegal and "discriminatory."
Here’s what actually happened: About 40 minutes into the event, Assistant Dean of Students Lewis A. Marrara II went to the sale, took a picture of the bake sale sign, and left. About 20 minutes later, Marrara and Associate Dean of Students Gerald W. Commerford told BUCC that the event was being shut down. Commerford cited a discrepancy between BUCC’s Sales and Solicitation form and the price list, noting that the highest price being asked for the doughnuts was $1.00, instead of $2.00 as indicated on the form. According to the video, Commerford added that because of this discrepancy, "we have the opportunity to shut you down." Commerford did not give any other reason for shutting down the protest. The BUCC students offered to restate the prices in accordance with the form, but Commerford rejected that option. Instead, he stated that BUCC would be able to "re-register at another time" and hold the event at some future time.
FIRE also has published an audio recording of BUCC’s attempt to "re-register at another time" in May 2009. On the recording, a BUCC member asks if the event would be approved if the group listed the bake sale prices as "optional," making it clear that anyone could pay whatever price they wanted, regardless of race. Former Dean Gerald Commerford completely rejected this option, however, saying, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, because it’s a discriminatory [pricing] policy." He then added, "It’s a political issue, ok; it needs to be debated in its proper forum, ok, and not on the public property on the campus." When a BUCC member then asked, "There is no way we can have an event like this?" Commerford replied, "No."
Guess what? Nobody cited or arrested John Stossel for his "discriminatory" affirmative action bake sale in a public shopping center in Manhattan. And on a quick review, FIRE has found about three dozen affirmative action bake sales on private and public college campuses around the country. Bucknell is dead wrong when it keeps claiming that a satirical, optional affirmative action bake sale (not to mention the equally legal "gender wage gap" bake sales that also occur around the country) constitutes illegal discrimination. It would help Bucknell’s credibility to at least admit this basic point.
Bucknell’s new president, John Bravman, promised FIRE that he would get to the bottom of the legal question. But that was months ago, and the case is clear. Is it any surprise that Bucknell is on FIRE’s Red Alert list for being among the worst of the worst universities in the United States for violating freedom of speech?
Do also check out Stossel’s column on his bake sale, in which he also examines FIRE’s case at Bucknell.
The timing of this embarrassing national attention could hardly be worse for Bucknell University: this week features the festivities relating to President Bravman’s inauguration. Bucknell is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is time for Bucknell to start being honest and revise its restrictive policies so that Bucknell finally can put this embarrassment to rest.
For more, tune in to Stossel on the Fox Business Network this evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for what promises to be a lively discussion.