Tuesday, January 31, 2006

College credit for protesting fellow students? 

Once again, DePaul University is in some hot water for silencing student speech on its campus.

DePaul�s latest foray into censorship began on January 17, when the DePaul Conservative Alliance (DCA) held an �affirmative action bake sale� at a table in the student center. Affirmative action bake sales are a widely used form of satirical protest against affirmative action. Organizers display a menu on which black and Hispanic students are charged lower prices than Asian and white students for the same items. The bake sales are intended to spark debate about affirmative action policies, not to raise revenue. At DePaul, the protest did just that, drawing a crowd of people who argued about the issue vehemently but peacefully.

Less than an hour into the sale, DePaul�s dean of students ordered the DCA to shut down the protest. University spokeswoman Denise Mattson told the student newspaper that the location of the protest was inappropriate, even though the university allowed a PETA table protesting the use of fur to be set up in exactly the same place a week later. On January 20, undergraduate Michael O�Shea, who led the protest, was informed that he was under �investigation� for violating DePaul�s �discriminatory harassment� policy. O�Shea met with administrative investigator Cynthia Summers on January 24. In a chilling e-mail exchange, Summers answered O�Shea�s question of exactly why the bake sale was being investigated by saying, �[t]here is no �because� for the investigation that is pre-determined.�

I went to read the article written about this in the DePaul campus newspaper, and I find that one class is using this as a teaching moment:
Megan Wiskiewicz, a junior history student, is currently working on an e-mail along with other members in her class, Women�s and Gender�s Studies 200: Women in Transitional Context, that will call for a few changes within the DCA organization. �We are expressing concern and seriously requesting that the organization put out a public written apology, be placed on probation and agree to take part in a forum on affirmative action,� said Wiskiewicz. The e-mail compiled by her class will be sent to Jim Doyle in Student Affairs, among other faculty members.
I do not know if this is considered part of their coursework, but organizing it within a classroom seems wrong.