Last year, it was the fashion among campus conservative groups to hold anti-affirmative action bake sales: In such sales, prices are calibrated by the buyer's race, with women and minority groups receiving discounts and white male students paying a presumably "full price" for the same cookie. It was also the fashion for administrators to try to prevent such sales, and, when prevention failed, to shut them down and punish the students who held them. The bake sales weren't great commentary on affirmative action--they convinced no one who was not already convinced, and they angered people who might have been open to reasoned argument. But, inadvertently, they were great commentary on the state of free speech on campus, as group after group succeeded in flushing out the censors in their midst. There is no question that holding such a bake sale falls within the realm of constitutionally protected speech--but administrators persistently refused to see this, and consistently cited their schools' anti-discrimination policies (with no sense of irony whatsoever) as justification for refusing to let the sales proceed and for disciplining those who were holding them.
Tales of anti-affirmative bake sales and the censors who hate them have been comparatively rare this year. There is a classic case brewing at Northeastern Illinois University, however. The College Republicans (it's always the College Republicans) are planning an anti-affirmative action bake sale, and the administration doesn't want the sale to take place. So the administration has threatened to punish the CRs if they hold the sale, even though a campus feminist group recently held an analogous "pay equity bake sale" geared to criticize inequality between the sexes. The other part of the pattern is typical, too--FIRE has stepped in to defend the group, and has today gone public with the details of NEIU's unconscionable refusal to recognize the expressive rights of students whose opinions do not reflect the accepted institutional orthodoxy. Read all about it at www.thefire.org.
Critical Mass: A high price to pay