Archive for Thursday, December 25, 2003

Affirmative action protest leads to campus violence

December 25, 2003

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— Campus bake sales by conservatives who oppose affirmative-action are cooking up discord -- and complaints about restrictions on free speech.

Organizers charge white students $1 for a cookie, while blacks and other minorities pay 25 to 95 cents. Doughnuts are available for 50 cents to everyone except Asian Americans and whites, who cannot purchase them.

Unfair? So is affirmative action, organizers contend.

"It's a good example of what affirmative action does, judging people based on race," said Jason Chambers, president of the University of Washington College Republicans, which had a sale in October that shut down when some students began attacking the booth.

"People were upset. People did feel offended," said Anthony Rose, president of the UW Black Student Union. "You see something like that, you feel itemized."

In September, Southern Methodist University shut down a similar event by the Young Conservatives of Texas.

Similar bake sales have taken place this year at the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M; University, Northwestern University near Chicago, the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

A conservative watchdog group in Philadelphia contends some universities are violating students' constitutional freedoms by restricting the protests.

"They cannot defend in public what they have done to the First Amendment at the University of Washington," said Thor Halvorssen, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "There is no question that the administration would never censor a group of students holding a peaceful protest in favor of affirmative action."

The UW College Republicans' Oct. 8 bake sale took place about the same time as a step performance by a traditionally black fraternity.

Chambers said students engaged in a couple hours of heated discussion, until some began tearing down signs, even throwing cookies at members of the conservative group.

"I really thought that everyone on campus could maintain their composure and have a civil discussion without getting violent. I was really surprised that it went that far," Chambers said.

UW spokesman Robert Roseth said the administration had nothing to do with the shutdown.

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