College Targets Bake Sales And Free Speech

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Across the country, college and university administrators register their objections to the affirmative action bake sales held by conservative and libertarian groups by shutting them down. While the administrators frequently cite legal reasons for doing so, they cannot, when pressed, name an actual law that they are helping to enforce.

To protest race-based admissions policies, the groups hold bake sales in which they typically charge Caucasians top dollar for cookies and brownies while offering the same goods to African-Americans at the lowest rates. The groups holding the sales generally charge Asians a little less than whites and Hispanics a little more than African-Americans. Generally, college administrators give the groups the order to fold their tables up soon after they have been erected.

Such a fate befell young Will Coggin at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Coggin did not help matters by playing the game “Ghettopoly” while holding the sale. Designed along the lines of Monopoly, Ghettopoly features crackhouses in place of Boardwalk and Park Place. Even African-Americans suspicious of government affirmative action policies find the game offensive.

The group to which Coggin belongs, the Sons of Liberty, embraces the libertarian political philosophy which views the policy of affirmative action as misguided. The group’s concern is not with the stated goal of affirmative action—equal opportunities in employment and education—but the means of achieving that end. While the libertarians, like most Americans, desire equal opportunity for all, they see a problem with mandating equal outcomes for everyone. Instead, they believe that government regulations, while rarely achieving their objectives, nearly always restrict liberty, the root of the word libertarian.

The Sons of Liberty set up their bake sale at 11:00 AM, with flyers outlining the group’s position on affirmative action. By mid-afternoon, the Assistant Vice President of the College’s Student Affairs Office, Mark Constantine, told Coggin to take down the signs. Coggin did so.

Having complied with the order, the freshman International Relations major now faced disciplinary action by the school, Constantine indicated. The byplay between Coggin and Constantine that followed ran like comedy team Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.

Constantine told Coggin that the bake sale violated campus policy as outlined in the school’s student handbook. Coggin asked Constantine which section of the student handbook he was referring to. Constantine then told Coggin that what was in the school handbook didn’t matter.

Constantine requested a meeting with Coggin. “Here’s what happened at the meeting,” Coggin told us, “Constantine called our actions illegal.”

Constantine could not point to any federal, state or local statute or regulation to support that claim. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, no college or university administrator in the country has, even in law- and regulation-rich California.

They do not even point to provisions of the school’s regulations as a bar to bake sales that try to make a political statement, even in schools with restrictive speech codes. At William and Mary, so far, school administrators have taken no action against Coggin or the Sons of Liberty, though the Student Assembly has condemned the bake sale.

Taken literally as an issue of unfair commercial pricing, the group that could allege discrimination would consist of whites. As State Delegate Brad Marrs pointed out to W. Samuel Sadler, Vice President for Student Affairs, “In this case, minorities were being charged less, not more.”

“Thus, they were not being harmed, unless you think the fact that someone was pointing out the College’s preference policies’ existence and effects constitutes harm,” said Marrs, who as a William and Mary graduate had taken an interest in the case. Subsequently, Sadler agreed that the College would not discipline either Coggin or the Sons Of Liberty.