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DePaul’s Sordid Legacy Continues

Yet another incident of censorship and administrative abuse has arisen at DePaul University. This time, as today’s press release explains, the DePaul Conservative Alliance (DCA) protested affirmative action by holding an affirmative action bake sale, which was intended to spark debate. Before an hour had passed, however, the Dean of Students, in true DePaul style, shut the bake sale down.

The students who organized the bake sale are now under investigation for possible violations of DePaul's Anti-Discriminatory Harassment Policy and Procedures. First, DePaul spokeswoman Denise Mattson said that the bake sale was held in an inappropriate location, yet FIRE has proof that the PETA student group was allowed to hold an anti-fur protest in the exact same location a week later. Then, when student organizer Michael O’Shea asked why he was under investigation, Assistant Vice President of Community relations Cindy Summers replied that “[t]here is no ‘because’ for the investigation that is pre-determined.” In short, administrators stopped the bake sale for some reason that they cannot defend, and are now hunting for an excuse to persecute the DCAs even further.

I wish I could say that this behavior is surprising, but FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff got it right when he said that “[f]ighting repression at DePaul is becoming a full-time job.” FIRE first got involved with DePaul last march when the university threw due process to the wind and fired Professor Thomas Klocek for arguing with students outside of class. FIRE then intervened when the College Republicans were prohibited from protesting a visit to campus by controversial Professor Ward Churchill, then again when DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider lied to FIRE about DePaul’s policies.

Despite these blatant abuses of power to chill debate on campus, silence conservative speech, and intimidate students and faculty who disagree with the administration’s views, DePaul’s Mattson has stated that “[t]he university absolutely firmly believes in free speech for students,” and even went so far as to say, “[t]hat’s what the university is about: giving students the opportunity to explore different point of views.” But with DePaul’s track record, Mattson isn’t fooling anyone, and promises like this one seem more like a punch line than an actual commitment.

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