Skip to comments.Separate but Equally Delicious (Activist Campus Conservatives Improve on Leftist Tactics)
Posted on 03/05/2004 8:17:38 PM PST by Zunt Toad
The phrase student activists usually conjures up images of sign-waving protestors railing against various evils of the establishment. Indeed, for decades after the modern student movement began at the University of California-Berkeley in the 1960s, such protestors were traditionally liberal and reflexively so, given that administrations were comparatively conservative. But now that todays educational establishment is populated with yesterdays student radicals, conservatives find themselves in the odd position of being the protestors. But rather than rely on disruptive tactics, modern conservatives are improving on plays from the liberal handbook: Theyre making their points with wit and humor, not catcalling and sit-ins.
In recent months, race-based preferences have been a prime issue of contention, anddo I dare use the wordactivism has become a common conservative response. Perhaps the most popular form of protest has been the affirmative action bake sale, first devised at the University of New Mexico. Members of the Michigan Review restarted this conservative protest last February. Parodying the schools admission policy, which automatically gave 20 points out of 100 needed for acceptance to members of certain minority groups, students sold bagels and muffins to Black and Latino students for $.80 but required Whites and Asians to pay a dollar.
Schools around the country have duplicated this effort following this summers Supreme Court decision upholding the use of race in admissions. Unlike the institutional support usually given to, say, anti-war protests, the bake sales have met with harsh vitriol and censure from campus administrators. Southern Methodist University officials shut down a Young Conservatives of Texas sale in September, while in December, University of Washington College Republicans voluntarily ceased business after signs were torn down, and salespeople were pelted with baked goods.
Within the last month, three bake sales have proceeded only after intervention by the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights In Education. Sons of Liberty preferentially sold cookies in late December at William and Mary; W&M top brass claimed a halted November sale had violated administrative requirements. University of California-Irvine students proceeded with a doughnut sale from Septemberpostponed because it violated UCIs nondiscrimination policyafter making all prices suggested. Students at the University of Colorado-Boulder employed a similar tactic, though affirmative action crusaders eventually disrupted the event.
Bake sales are just the tip of the iceberg. Race-based awards and scholarships have been another target of clever protests. Two students at Nebraskas Omahas Westside High School promoted classmate Trevor Richards for the Distinguished African-American Student Award, annually bestowed as part of the schools Martin Luther King Day celebration. The precocious Rambo twinsPaul and Scottput up some one hundred posters of Richards, who moved to Nebraska from South Africa in 1998. Though only one of a handful of Westside students from Africa, Richards, who is white, was deemed ineligible by administrators. Moreover, he and the Rambos were suspended for an unspecified period of time.
Most controversial of all, however, has been the white scholarship offered by the Roger Williams University College Republicans (RWUCR). Intended to parody scholarships the school offers only to minority students, the application form asked for a picture confirming whiteness in addition to GPA and accomplishments. Scholarship hopefuls were also required to write why they were proud of [their] white heritage and explain what being white means to [them]. Senior communications major Adam Noska was chosen from among seventeen applicants for the $250 award. The scholarship was presented last Friday by Reginald Jones, the host of a conservative African-American talk show. Jones and RWUCR president Jason Mattera had to be ushered to and from the ceremony by a throng of security personnel.
Like their liberal counterparts, these modern conservatives protests attempt to provoke a reaction from their audience, particularly those who disagree. Unlike many of rage-fueled marches of the past, however, bake sales and the like make a specific and content-filled point: Racial preferences in education are unfair.
Certainly, these points are ones with which reasonable people may reasonably disagree. The message of the bake sales is somewhat muted by the Courts decision in Gratz v. Bollinger to strike down mechanically- assigned point-based preferences. (There is certainly still a point to be made here. Students at CU, for instance, parodied the Courts language in Grutter v. Bollinger by making race merely a plus factor in cookie pricing.) Richards might be excluded from consideration for the African- American award on grounds that he is more properly classified as a Dutch- African-American. And the RWUCRs were even disowned by Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. (The Club President, ironically, continues to receive a $5,000 scholarship from the Hispanic College Fund.)
Even if these protests are not entirely correct with all of the parallels they draw, the refusal of liberal students and administrators to enter into the constructive debate sought by such actions is appalling. But not when compared to the lengths to which administrators will go to shut them down.
UCIs administration claimed that the bake sale was discriminatory. At W&M, President Timothy Sullivan called the Sons of Libertys sale inexcusably hurtful and abusive. In Nebraska, Principal John Crook justified suspension of Richards on grounds that the poster in question was offensive to the individual being honored, to people who work here, and to some students. My role is to make sure we have a safe environment, physically and psychologically. We cant allow that kind of thing to be hung up on our walls.
Meanwhile, the Roger Williams student senate is attempting to revoke the RWUCR on the grounds that, while political speech of campus groups is protected, political action is not. Somewhere, the schools namesake is rolling in his grave.
Whether such protests are offensive and inappropriate is an open question; that educational administrators are using the same machinery of power their generation so criticized in their youth to suppress conservative dissent is not. Equally clear is that liberals no longer have a monopoly on activism. College conservatives have entered the fray, and theyre showing no signs of turning back.
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What a wonderful "tuning" of Voltaire!
"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to believe their professors and administrations!" - PDQ Burke
Great! Stay at it! Reagan's relatively easy. (Not easy, just relatively so.) Have you taken it as far as defending McCarthy yet? You need to be REALLY prepared and have all your facts down before you try it, or you will get creamed. However, done effectively, it can be absolutely devastating because it undermines such a central truism in the accepted worldview of the uninformed.
I also love bringing up the history around Wittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss. The facts around Hiss make the elite VERY uncomfortable, because he looks like them (or vice versa)!
Yes, they do. Ridiculously divisive, aggressive to the point of absurdity, and accomplishing nothing.
And in the process, they hand the rhetorical high road to the left.
We had an Affirmative Action Bake Sale earlier this semester. It was all over the campus newspaper for a week.