Outraged by the forced closure of a bake sale by the dean of students, the College Republicans sought assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to communicate with administration on the possible violation of First Amendment rights.
In an effort to support ‘Yes on Proposition 54,’ the College Republicans hosted a bake sale where they sold doughnuts at different prices to buyers based on their ethnicities.
Last week, FIRE sent a letter to the College Republicans and several members of administration that claimed the bake sale was a form of ‘satirical protest’ and therefore ‘enjoys the fullest protection of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.’
Despite many students’ disapproval of the tactics used to voice their opinion regarding Prop 54, the letter also states that all UCI students ‘demand the most profound respect of freedom of speech.’
According to Brian Zuetel, president of the College Republicans at UCI, the letter drafted by FIRE symbolized the need to allow Constitutional rights to supercede the University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students.
‘Our main argument was that Sally Peterson used unconstitutional policies to shut us down,’ Zuetel said. ‘The UC Policies that apply to students and faculty need to be implemented based on the United States Constitution.’
The letter also asked for a response from administration, which was sent to FIRE earlier this week.
‘The letter basically said that we are in violation of the UC Policies and that we were forced to shut down based on that,’ Zuetel said.
Zuetel believes that Peterson was right to ‘base her decision on these policies’ but still believes that the decision ignored the Constitution, case law and freedom of expression.
Other organizations that became involved with the situation include the Center for Campus Free Speech, a national organization that works with college students to ensure their rights for freedom of speech and to raise awareness regarding the value of free speech.
Rob Thompson, organizer for the Center for Campus Free Speech, advised the club and became familiar with FIRE after they supported a group of students at the University of Alabama after they hung Confederate flags off their balconies.
‘The chancellor forced them to remove the flags, prompting [the students] to seek assistance from FIRE, much like the College Republicans at UCI,’ Thompson said. ‘After the chancellor of the University of Alabama received the letter he banned students from hanging anything from balcony windows.’
Thompson relates that situation to the one concerning the College Republicans at UCI.
‘I don’t denounce the efforts of the Republicans at UCI for their actions, but I believe that litigation does have an adverse affect on free speech for the very reason of the situation like the University of Alabama,’ Thompson said. ‘Litigation causes administration to be reluctant to allow clubs and organizations to host any possible controversial events.’
Thompson will be meeting with the dean of students next week to discuss the goals of the Center for Campus Free Speech and to discuss student fees and other legal issues. Thompson will also be visiting six of the seven UC schools, including UCI, to talk about similar issues.
‘The UC system is a great place to focus on because of its prestige and its national recognition,’ Thompson said.
Zuetel and the Republicans at UCI would like to set up a meeting with the dean of students to determine what action they should take next.
‘We have not yet been able to get in touch with Peterson but we will try to call next week to schedule a time to meet with her,’ Zuetel said. ‘In the meantime we will still host events that uphold conservative Republican values to raise awareness.’