Bucknell bake sale sparks First Amendment debate

June 23, 2009

By Susan Snyder at Philadelphia Inquirer

Bake sales - typically the sweetest and most innocent of displays - again have become a flashpoint for strident political debate and free speech arguments on college campuses, this time at Bucknell University.

The "affirmative-action bake sale," at which the Bucknell University Conservatives Club charged different prices depending on a customer's race, was shut down by the administration in April. But it didn't end there.

Bucknell president Brian C. Mitchell has received about 100 letters, e-mails, and phone calls protesting the administration's response.

A Philadelphia-based national free-speech group this month blasted the school in a news release that began, "Student rights are under assault at Bucknell University. ..."

And a fledgling group of alumni and other interested parties issued a statement of concern last week.

The controversy at Bucknell - a 3,500-student liberal arts university in Lewisburg, Pa., about 75 minutes north of the state capital - is not unique.

College campuses across the country frequently must deal with delicate issues of free speech, political posturing, and race relations.

Affirmative-action bake sales, usually held by conservative groups, have been cropping up on campuses for years, much to the chagrin of many administrators - although Kutztown University a few years ago let one go on and used it as a "teachable moment...

Schools: Bucknell University Cases: Bucknell University: University Slams Door on Student Satires of Obama Stimulus Plan and Affirmative Action