John Leo

The Center for Individual Rights is working out a settlement in the case of a white student punished for "disruption" after quietly posting a flier at the multicultural center of California Polytechnic State University. There was no disruption. The black students who complained simply didn?t like the flier, which promoted a speech by a black conservative author. Cal Poly?s action seemed clearly unconstitutional, but typical of what many colleges got away with when nobody was watching. Terry Pell of CIR says his friends, left and right, are appalled when they hear about the Cal Poly case. CIR?s attorney in the case, Carol Sobel, frequently works for the ACLU. And Pell says that judges of all political persuasions are appalled when CIR brings them cases like this too.

Another factor in the new atmosphere is that conservative students are now a bigger presence on campus. A Harvard poll in the fall found that 61 percent of U.S. college students supported President Bush, at a time when only 53 percent of all Americans supported him. Last fall, in the annual UCLA survey of college freshmen, 21 percent of students identified themselves as conservative, compared with 24 percent who said they were liberal -- down from a peak of 38 percent liberal in 1971.

Many conservative students favor satire and ridicule as campus weapons. The best example is the bake sales on more than a dozen campuses mocking affirmative action in college admissions by selling cookies at $1 to white males and 50 cents for Latino or black males. Many of these sales were shut down by campus administrators, thus demonstrating how dumb and repressive college officials can be. (Similar "wage gap" cookie sales by feminists ran into no such trouble.) At Northwestern, the administrator who halted the sale said, "This is not a bake sale, and your permit is only for a bake sale!" At the University of Washington, the administration said the cookie-sellers had failed to apply for a food permit and that the administration did not in fact shut them down. FIRE produced official university documents contradicting both arguments. Watch for more bake sales and more anticensorship stunts. Repressive speech policies are under heavy pressure and starting to break down.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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