SMU wrong to shut down YCT bake saleSept. 30, 2003
Last week, in an effort to protest the use of race and gender in the college admissions process, the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at Southern Methodist University held an 'affirmative action bake sale.' White males were charged $1 for baked goods; white females, 75 cents; Hispanics, 50 cents; and blacks, 25 cents. Despite the fact that the group filed the necessary paperwork for the event ahead of time, university officials shut it down after only 45 minutes, saying the sale created 'a hostile environment ... that was potentially volatile.'
David C. Rushing, the group's leader, said the situation didn't get out of hand, and only a dozen or so students gathered around the table in protest. Similar bake sales were allowed at other schools with no administrative censorship - including the University of Michigan, whose affirmative action policies were reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Although the display was tasteless and offensive to many students, SMU officials should not have forced the group to close the bake sale. The First Amendment protects free speech - even offensive speech. If administrators start censoring organizations because the methods in which members choose to spread their message is politically incorrect, then everyone's freedom is at stake.
Officials only should have stopped the event if the threat to students' safety was so great that no other course of action would have been effective, and other steps should have been taken to control the situation. Additionally, 45 minutes was not enough time to determine if a violent atmosphere truly existed.
While the manner in which the conservative group chose to broadcast its message lacked decorum, the group members still have a constitutional right to express their opinions, and university officials must respect that right. As Americans, we have the right to free speech. We do not, however, have the right to not be offended.