Recently the Young Republican club at Grand Valley State University (Michigan) sponsored an affirmative action bake sale of the sort that has almost become a fixture on college campuses these days.
This one, however, was different, or at least ended differently. This time the club’s leaders were forced to resign, with the complicity of the club’s faculty advisor, a Republican official.
Paul Leidig, the club’s faculty adviser, said “the club supported the idea of the bake sale as a satirical form of expression against affirmative action.”
But Leidig, who also is chairman of the Ottawa County Republican Party, said he did not know the students planned to use a racially biased price scale when he approved the event.
“Had I known that, I would have not approved it,” he said.
As a result of the controversy, Leidig said he advised the students to consider a leadership change to acknowledge they respect the fact people were offended by the bake sale.
Kyle Rausch, the former president, now considers himself a former Republican.
“The university recognized the fact that as long as I was in the driver’s seat, I was not going to back down,” Rausch said.
“They used the Republican Party to force me out and got the group to apologize for something they never should have apologized for.
“I’ve been called a bigot and racist,” Rausch said. “There’s nothing racist about saying affirmative action should be based on economic means and not race.”
Rausch now describes himself as a “conservative independent” and said he plans to start a campus conservative student group next year.
With Michigan Republicans like this, and this, who needs Democrats?
UPDATE [8 April]
Several of the GVSU students involved in the affirmative action bake sale have been charged with violating university policies against discrimination, which brought the university to the attention of F.I.R.E.
GVSU’s moral obligation to guarantee its students’ free speech rights is clear; its legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment is indisputable. As a public university, GVSU has an overarching legal obligation, in addition to its moral obligation, to ensure the First Amendment rights of its students. The College Republicans’ bake sale protest is a clear example of political parody, and the complaining students’ reaction against it serves as an illuminating example of why the U.S. Supreme Court has seen fit to so heavily protect this type of expression. The very point of the protest was to parallel what the College Republicans view as discrimination in college admissions through affirmative action policies. Categorizing the “bake sale” as “discrimination” ignores—or willfully misinterprets—the expressive purpose of the event. Any punishment of the College Republicans or its individual members for their constitutionally protected expression would therefore be prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Furthermore, at least one GVSU administrator is on record suggesting that the real reason that the university is trying the students for their political expression is that some people found it “offensive.” GVSU Director of Student Life Bob Stoll was quoted in a March 25, 2005, article in The Grand Rapids Press as saying, “To do something this offensive is not appropriate.” Thankfully, the First Amendment does not permit state officials to punish expression merely because they deem it inappropriate or offensive.
GVSU can and should put out the F.I.R.E. it has lit by dropping all charges against the differentially-priced cookie sellers.