Free speech? Not at UW · 09 October 2003

by Nick Dayton, University of Washington Daily, 10/10


On Wednesday I learned that the First Amendment does not apply on our campus.
Wednesday was the day the UW College Republicans (UWCR) held an "affirmative action bake sale." At the bake sale, the price of the cookies was based on the ethnicity of the buyers. This was intended to show , since it used race to judge people rather than judging them as individuals, affirmative action is inherently racist. The UWCR hoped this bake sale would start a discussion about the issue.

The bake sale went well for a few hours. Many people bought cookies and many engaged in lively discussions about affirmative action and other related issues. As the crowd in front of the bake sale tent increased in size to about a 100 people, things got a lot more heated, but there was still some worthwhile discourse occurring. At around 12:45 p.m. a couple people decided to start tearing down the UWCR's signs and damaging the baked goods. One UWCR member, Adam Baldridge, even had a box of cookies thrown in his face.

The reaction of University officials and the UW Police Department to these attacks was to shut down the bake sale. The UWCR had done nothing violent, why was the bake sale shut down? It shouldn't have been. Shutting down this bake sale sends a strong message: if you don't like what people say on this campus, physically attack them, and they will be silenced. I know a lot of you may not agree with the UWCR's position on affirmative action, but it has the right to state it. The First Amendment was designed to protect speech that is unpopular.
The reaction to this event from many on our campus, including the editorial staff of The Daily, was disgusting. The staff's article in yesterday's paper made the statement that the UWCR "knew what it was getting into." Is the editorial staff implying that the UWCR should expect violence directed toward it when it voices an opinion that is unpopular? I certainly hope not. This campus should be a place where all students can voice their political views without fear of being physically attacked or shut down by the authorities. The UW has an obligation to protect our constitutional right to speak freely and assemble peacefully. I thought this was a university that respected diversity of opinion.

The UWCR is united in that none of its members are willing to be intimidated by violence and censorship. Baldridge stated, "We are not going to let an uninformed incensed mob silence us on this campus. We will not roll over to threats." Right on, Adam. If the UWCR does back down it will be showing that intimidation, violence and censorship work. The UWCR has the same free-speech rights as everyone else on this campus, and the University needs to start acting like it knows that. Our forefathers risked their lives to give us rights such as the ones articulated in the First Amendment, and we will not let a few misfits take them away. We will not be silenced.