Political dissent on campus – acceptable when it involves left-wing protesters shouting down conservative speakers, but hurtful and possibly dangerous when performed in a peaceful, parodic nature by conservatives. That's the impression left by the New York Times.
Malia Wollan visited the campus of the University of California at Berkeley for Tuesday's report, 'A 'Diversity Bake Sale' Backfires on Campus .' The parody 'bake sale,' mocking affirmative action in California college admissions, has not in fact taken place yet, but the threats and intimidation are already pouring in on the Republican activists - things the Times isn't overly bothered about.
A bake sale sponsored by a Republican student group at the University of California, Berkeley, has incited anger and renewed the debate over affirmative action by asking students to pay different prices for pastry, depending on their race and sex.
Last week, the Berkeley College Republicans announced its 'Increase Diversity Bake Sale,' scheduled for Tuesday. On Facebook, the group listed the price for a pastry at $2 for white students, $1.50 for Asian students, $1 for Latinos, 75 cents for African-Americans and 25 cents for Native Americans. Women of all races were promised a 25-cent discount.
'Hope to see you all there! If you don't come, you're a racist!' the Facebook event page said. (It has since been taken down and replaced with milder text.)
'We expected people to be upset,' the group's president, Shawn Lewis, 20, a third-year political science major, said Monday in a telephone interview. 'Treating people differently based on the color of their skin is wrong, and we wanted people to be upset about that.'
The bake sale was scheduled to protest a phone bank organized by the Associated Students of the University of California, the campus student government group, where students planned to call Gov. Jerry Brown and urge him to sign a Senate bill that would allow public universities to consider race, gender and ethnicity in admissions decisions. In 1996, voters in the state passed a ballot initiative, known as Proposition 209, prohibiting affirmative action in admissions.
The Times' Jennifer Medina was far more tolerant in February 2010 to a case of actual liberal suppression of conservative debate on another college in the California system, the University of California at Irvine: 'Charges Against Muslim Students Prompt Debate Over Free Speech.' But what about the free speech of the conservatives at Berkeley?
As Times Watch wrote in 2010, the paper has never been overly concerned about the free speech rights of campus conservatives. These mock 'bake sales' are particularly offensive to the paper's sensibilities, as shown in this February 25, 2004 article by Karen Arenson, 'Columbia President Denounces Racially Offensive Incidents .'
One of those 'racially offensive incidents' was a similar 'affirmative action bake sale,' which charged higher prices to white students and lower prices to black, Hispanics, and females. The conservative students at Columbia University (who knew?) were forced to apologize for the stunt, though no one was threatened or shouted down, unlike what happened in Irvine last year or at Berkeley this year.
Wollan neutrally provided the ugly details of liberal threats against the Berkeley bake sale.
The bake sale idea is not original, said Mr. Lewis, the Republican group's president, noting that the same tactic had been used on other college campuses in the last decade to protest affirmative action.
Event organizers received numerous threats on Facebook, and some of the group's members changed their names and profile pictures. 'This event was not organized by a bunch of white guys,' Mr. Lewis said. 'We're not racists.' The group's 10-member board of directors includes several Asians and a Latino, he said, and more than half the board members are women.
This line was galling:
Student leaders worried that the bake sale would make students uncomfortable and aggravate tensions on campus.
That's precisely what the left-wing protesters were doing to the bake-sale organizers in the first place. Yet the Times focused its criticism on the conservative victims, not the leftists making online threats, or the student leaders employing intimidation by passing a resolution condemning (in Wollan's words) "discriminatory events on campus."
- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch  site.