Bake Sale Censorship · 01 October 2003

"This was not an issue about free speech," Southern Methodist Student Center Director Tim Moore told the Dallas Morning News, when public outcry about this censorship erupted. "It was really an issue where we had a hostile environment being created that was potentially volatile."

By shutting down these political protests, Southern Methodist and UC-Irvine stand in clear violation of the principles of academic freedom. Universities are institutions of learning, not political parties. Free speech and freedom of inquiry within the academic community are absolutely critical to the students' abilities to achieve a true education-one that teaches them how to make up their own minds on the controversial issues of the day.

When was the last time a university called off an anti-war protest because pro-war students found it "offensive"? The answer is obvious and exposes the hypocrisy in the interpretation of university policy.

These institutions have done all their students a great disservice by shutting down these protests. By refusing to allow an inventive, spirited call for debate in the public square, the school intervened on one side of a highly controversial political issue, thereby violating the posture of organizational neutrality which they are duty-bound to uphold.

The students most harmed by this spectacle are those who complained about the protest, and saw their objections answered with censorship. The university's unmistakable lesson to them: when encountering opinions and beliefs that make you feel uncomfortable, don't confront those beliefs, but merely silence their purveyors.

Students for Academic Freedom hereby calls upon SMU and UC-Irvine to apologize to the students whose legitimate protests were forcibly cancelled. We further request that these schools offer their students a second opportunity to hold their bake sales, this time allowing an open debate to decide the outcome of the day.

If your university has shut down a protest, let us know about it so-we can help you fight the censorship of unpopular views on campus. Contact me at sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or at 202-969-2467. Look to our website www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org for further updates on this developing story.

Best Regards,
Sara Russo
National Campus Director