Political Correctness on Campus
We need more debate about controversial subjects like affirmative action, not less.
This week, I held a bake sale—a racist bake sale. I stood in midtown Manhattan shouting, "Cupcakes for sale." My price list read:
Asians — $1.50
Whites — $1.00
Blacks/Latinos — 50 cents
People stared. One yelled, "What is funny to you about people who are less privileged?" A black woman said, angrily, "It's very offensive, very demeaning!" One black man accused me of poisoning the cupcakes.
I understand why people got angry. What I did was hurtful to some. My bake sale mimicked what some conservative college students did at Bucknell University. The students wanted to satirize their school's affirmative action policy, which makes it easier for blacks and Hispanics to get admitted.
I think affirmative action is racism—and therefore wrong. If a private school like Bucknell wants to have such policies to increase diversity, fine. But government-imposed affirmative action is offensive. Equality before the law means government should treat citizens equally.
But it doesn't. Our racist government says that any school receiving federal tax dollars, even if only in the form of federal aid to students, must comply with affirmative action rules, and some states have enacted their own policies.
Advocates of affirmative action argue it is needed because of historic discrimination. Maybe that was true in 1970, but it's no longer true. Affirmative action is now part of the minority special privilege machine, an indispensable component of which is perpetual victimhood.
All the Bucknell students wanted was a campus discussion about that. Why not? A university is supposed to be a place for open discussion, but some topics are apparently off-limits. On my Fox Business show this week, I'll discuss this with a member of the Bucknell Conservative Club who participated in the bake sale.
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."
Right. My affirmative action cupcake "event" led to some interesting discussions. One young woman began by criticizing me, "It's absolutely wrong."
But after I raised the parallel with college admissions, she said: "No race of people is worth more than another. Or less."
But do you believe in affirmative action in colleges? I asked.
"I used to," she replied.
Those are the kind discussions students should have.
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."
It is, indeed. Why are America's institutions of higher learning so fearful?
John Stossel is host of Stossel on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of Give Me a Break and of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at johnstossel.com.
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