Bucknell University: University Slams Door on Student Satires of Obama Stimulus Plan and Affirmative Action

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Bucknell University

Student rights are under assault at Bucknell University, where a conservative student group’s protests against affirmative action policies and President Obama’s stimulus plan have repeatedly been shut down or forbidden by administrators using flimsy or patently false excuses. After the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) had three events censored in two months, including the distribution of “Obama Stimulus Dollars” and an affirmative action bake sale, the students turned to FIRE for help. The case is still ongoing.


























    • JOHN STOSSEL: Get Your Affirmative Action Cupcakes Here!

      November 10, 2010

      This week, I held a bake sale — a racist bake sale. I stood in midtown Manhattan shouting, “Cupcakes for sale.” My price list read: Asians — $1.50 Whites — $1.00 Blacks/Latinos — 50 cents People stared. One yelled, “What is funny to you about people who are less privileged?” A black woman said, angrily, “It’s very offensive, very demeaning!” One black man accused me of poisoning the cupcakes. I understand why people got angry. What I did was hurtful to some. My bake sale mimicked what some conservative college students did at Bucknell University. The students wanted to satirize […]

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    • Bucknell should embrace free speech as Lehigh University does

      October 20, 2009

      It pains me to say it, but I owe Lehigh University an apology. You see, I went to Bucknell. We’re rivals, you know. So as a proud member of the Bucknell family, I’ve considered it my job to make occasional fun of our nemesis in Bethlehem. When I was in school, I even owned a T-shirt that said: ”Lehigh: Because not everyone can get into Bucknell.” Sophomoric, I know. But then again, I was a sophomore. Now, I’m taking it back. I’m sorry, Lehigh. The reason is the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects our right to, among other things, […]

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    • BUCCing the Bucknell Liberals

      September 9, 2009

      The Bucknell University Conservatives Club, like so many other conservative clubs on America’s campuses, has grown accustomed to its political minority status on campus and having to fight the good fight for equal treatment. Yet, Bucknell’s administration has outdone itself in violating BUCC’s freedom of speech over the past several months. Bucknell, a private university in Pennsylvania, promises free expression to its students. But it has flouted this commitment and bent its policies in order to shut down BUCC’s affirmative action bake sale and a protest of President Obama’s economic stimulus. The latest outrage began in March, when BUCC members […]

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    • A crackdown on free speech at … Bucknell University?

      June 27, 2009

      Bucknell University, a well-regarded liberal arts institution set in a picturesque location in the rolling Pennsylvania countryside, looks entirely benign. Its campus is safe, its students intelligent. It counts among its alumni the famed author Philip Roth and Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS. It’s a college to which most parents would be proud to send their kids. But if your son or daughter is the type who might join the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC), you would be well-advised to send him or her somewhere else. Because Bucknell really, really does not want to hear what the students of the BUCC have […]

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    • Bucknell and the ‘Affirmative-Action Bakesale’

      June 23, 2009

      Oh to be back in college. The parties, all that time to stretch out with the world’s great books, those absolutely mind-blowing affirmative-action bakesales. Yes, we jest – at least on the last point. Truth is, we’ve never experienced an “affirmative-action bakesale,” though we understand that they’ve popped up on college and university campuses periodically over the last several years. The bakesales, typically put together by conservative student groups, attempt to make a political point about the alleged unfairness of affirmative action by charging different prices for cupcakes and other baked goods based on one’s race and sex. For instance, […]

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    • Bucknell bake sale sparks First Amendment debate

      June 23, 2009

      Bake sales – typically the sweetest and most innocent of displays – again have become a flashpoint for strident political debate and free speech arguments on college campuses, this time at Bucknell University. The “affirmative-action bake sale,” at which the Bucknell University Conservatives Club charged different prices depending on a customer’s race, was shut down by the administration in April. But it didn’t end there. Bucknell president Brian C. Mitchell has received about 100 letters, e-mails, and phone calls protesting the administration’s response. A Philadelphia-based national free-speech group this month blasted the school in a news release that began, “Student […]

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    • Bucknell University requires permit to hand out Bibles

      June 11, 2009

      Giving away Bibles on the campus of Bucknell University is at your own peril, since the school requires a permit for such an activity, according to a new dispute that arose involving the school’s Conservatives Club. The organization has attempted to make several political statements on campus, and has been shut down by officials with the university repeatedly, said a complaint letter assembled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The revelation of other permit demand for giving away Bibles came as part of an e-mail exchange over the dispute, in which school administrator Judy Mickanis told the leader […]

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    • FIRE blames newspaper’s ad refusal on school’s ‘culture of fear’

      August 7, 2013

      by Anne Elliot Student Press Law Center   A free speech group blames “a culture of fear” at Bucknell University for the student newspaper’s refusal to run an ad criticizing the university. Bucknellian Editor-in-Chief Lenore Flower informed the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in early September that the paper would not be running the organization’s ad because of libel concerns. Adam Kissel, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, dismissed the editor-in-chief’s claim that the ad was potentially libelous, saying its claims were clearly the opinion of his organization. “If third parties cannot even criticize the university in […]

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    • FIRE Places Billboard Criticizing Bucknell University’s Free Speech Record

      August 2, 2013

      LEWISBURG, Pa., September 20, 2010—One of the main ways that universities maintain immoral and unconstitutional speech codes is to keep alumni and parents in the dark about rules that restrict student and faculty speech. That is why today the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has purchased a billboard advertisement to publicize Bucknell University’s poor record on free speech. Bucknell, which used two policies to shut down the expression of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) on three separate occasions, is on FIRE’s Red Alert list as one of the worst violators of free speech on campus. Two Bucknell […]

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    • A ‘Bake Sale’ Protest at Aquinas College (Bucknell, Are You Listening?)

      February 2, 2012

      A perennial topic of consternation on college campuses is the “affirmative action bake sale” protest that groups opposed to affirmative action hold with some regularity on college campuses. If you don’t recall or haven’t heard of these protests, they take the form of bake sales where people of different ethnicities are charged different suggested amounts for baked goods, with whites and Asians paying the most and African-Americans and Native Americans paying the least. The different prices are meant to signify the advantage in college admissions that opponents of affirmative action argue such policies give to certain ethnicities. Probably the most […]

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    • ‘Stossel’ Show Exposes Censorship at Bucknell, Yale, and More

      November 18, 2011

      The most recent episode of Stossel on Fox Business Network, titled “Free Speech … and Its Enemies,” featured interviews with FIRE Board of Directors Chairman Harvey Silverglate and Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley discussing free speech on campus. Harvey described the evolving attacks on free speech whereby people are using terms like “harassment” and “bullying” to censor and punish speech they simply don’t like. Will explained why Yale University appeared on FIRE’s Huffington Post list of the “12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” (there are many reasons) and how seven schools made it to FIRE’s Huffington Post list of the […]

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    • An Open Letter to Bucknell University’s New President

      November 11, 2010

      Today, FIRE sent an open letter, reprinted below, to Bucknell University President John Bravman, asking him to vindicate student rights on Bucknell’s campus. FIRE is nonpartisan, and we take no position on the issues that Bucknell University students wanted to freely discuss on campus, including President Obama’s economic stimulus initiatives and affirmative action. We do, however, passionately and aggressively defend students’ rights to engage in free expression on campus—especially regarding contentious national issues, and especially at schools that, like Bucknell, explicitly promise free speech to their students. Now that Bucknell is ceremonially inaugurating its new university president this weekend, we […]

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    • John Stossel Discusses Bucknell’s ‘Affirmative Action Bake Sale’ (and His Own) with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly; Watch FIRE on ‘Stossel’ Tonight

      November 11, 2010

      John Stossel’s “affirmative action bake sale,” which I highlighted here yesterday, is continuing to make waves in advance of FIRE’s appearance on his program this evening. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Stossel’s visit with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, where he previews tonight’s Stossel program with FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and students from FIRE cases at Bucknell University (Kirby Thomas), Tarrant County College (Clayton Smith), and Valdosta State University (Hayden Barnes). The seven-minute segment with Megyn Kelly on Fox’s America Live covers Bucknell University’s repeated violations of its own free speech promises when it shut down the “affirmative […]

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    • Finally, a Positive Free Speech Story from Bucknell

      October 11, 2010

      Bucknell University has been under a lot of heat from FIRE recently for refusing to amend the speech policies it used to shut down three of the Bucknell University Conservative Club’s events last year. Between August 31 and October 8, we wrote President John Bravman a letter urging him to amend Bucknell’s restrictive speech codes, designated Bucknell as a “Red Alert” school for the second consecutive year, wrote four blog posts (here, here, here, and here) and distributed a press release about Bucknell’s free speech abuses, criticized its policies on a local Pennsylania radio station, and erected our first-ever billboard warning […]

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    • The ‘Bucknellian’ Publicizes FIRE’s Electronic Billboard

      October 8, 2010

      As Torch readers know, FIRE’s electronic billboard criticizing Bucknell University’s poor free speech record has been out on Route 15 in Pennsylvania since September 20. The ad was placed in reaction to three separate occasions on which the university shut down the expression of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC), as well as Bucknell’s policy preventing “affirmative action bake sale” protests and “gender wage gap bake sale” protests. Bucknell’s student newspaper, The Bucknellian, caught wind of the public shame and blogged about it, noting our intention for the ad: Representatives of FIRE hope the new billboard advertisement will force the […]

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    • FIRE’S Billboard Ad about Bucknell University on Route 15

      September 23, 2010

      As we mentioned in Monday’s press release, FIRE purchased an electronic billboard ad criticizing Bucknell University’s poor free speech record. Here it is, out in the wild, with a map to help you see it for yourself.

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    • Red Alert at Bucknell University: Permission Needed to Promote a Cause

      September 3, 2010

      On Tuesday, FIRE announced our full-page advertisement in U.S. News & World Report‘s college rankings issue, alerting prospective students and their parents to consider avoiding the six schools on our Red Alert list. We warn people about Bucknell University, Michigan State University, Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, and Tufts University because they are the “worst of the worst” nationwide when it comes to meeting their free speech obligations. Bucknell is in the ad, which we place every year, for the first time this year—although it was added to the list almost a full year ago. We have given Bucknell plenty of chances to revise the policies it used to shut […]

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    • Bucknell University Would Thwart AAUW ‘Wage Gap’ Bake Sales

      July 1, 2010

      AAUW (formerly known as the American Association of University Women) is a formidable nationwide entity with much to contribute to campus debate: For more than 128 years, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day-educational, social, economic, and political. Our commitment to our mission is reflected in all aspects of our work. AAUW boasts “more than 100,000 members and donors, 1,000 branches, and 500 college/university institution partners.” In Pennsylvania alone, AAUW has partnerships with 29 colleges and universities—public and private, religious and secular. But AAUW has no official presence at Bucknell University, and I think it would get […]

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    • Bucknell’s General Counsel Abuses the Truth to an Exceptional Degree–Even for Him

      June 10, 2010

      Every year, FIRE places a full-color, full-page advertisement in the college rankings issue of U.S. News & World Report. The ad (here is 2009′s) names the colleges and universities on FIRE’s Red Alert list, our “worst of the worst” list of schools that have shown such severe and ongoing disregard for free speech that we warn students and faculty members to avoid them. This year, Bucknell University is scheduled to be included in the ad (along with Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University). Bucknell deserves its ignominy because it (1) repeatedly shut down […]

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    • In Which Bucknell’s General Counsel Calls Me a Big Ole Liar

      June 4, 2010

      On January 18, 2010, I received a letter from Bucknell University General Counsel Wayne Bromfield that is undoubtedly the most personally insulting letter I have ever received in my time here at FIRE. We actually didn’t respond at the time because when someone sends you a letter like this, you can be sure that he or she is no longer acting in good faith.  But as we get closer to the time when we will highlight Bucknell as a Red Alert school in our annual full-page advertisement in U.S. News & World Report‘s college rankings issue—Red Alert schools are the “worst of the worst” […]

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    • Still Looking for a New Year’s Resolution, Red Alert Schools?

      January 14, 2010

      Here’s an easy New Year’s resolution that Brandeis University, Bucknell University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University can make: get off of FIRE’s Red Alert list of America’s worst violators of campus liberty! This week, FIRE sent the presidents of each of the six Red Alert schools a letter reminding them of their schools’ serious and ongoing violations of student and faculty rights, and just how easy it is for each of them to remedy their mistakes and reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression. FIRE also included with each letter a copy of the […]

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    • Bucknell Alumnus Prefers Rival Lehigh on Free Speech

      October 20, 2009

      Bucknell University alumnus Charles Mitchell has a strong piece in today’s Morning Call (Allentown, PA) regarding the administration’s wrongheaded censorship of political activity by the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC). Because of Bucknell’s actions, the school is on FIRE’s Red Alert list, which warns students to think twice before applying for admission to Bucknell if they value free speech. Mitchell, who also is a trustee of the Alliance for a Better Bucknell, concludes that despite a healthy rivalry between his alma mater and Lehigh University, Lehigh is the winner when it comes to free speech: [I read in] Lehigh’s student […]

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    • Do Bucknell Administrators Believe in Free Speech or Not?

      September 28, 2009

      After mid-level administrators shut down or censored several of the activities of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC), FIRE placed Bucknell on our Red Alert list as one of the “worst of the worst” for protecting liberty on campus. After months of administrative recalcitrance, however, a letter published in the August 27 issue of The Counterweight (a newspaper published by BUCC) offers hope for a quick resolution. Bucknell undergraduate Scott Teagarden, in his letter responding to a previous Counterweight article about the shutdown of BUCC’s satirical “affirmative action bake sale,” writes: The article reads, “If the Administration had its way, of course, […]

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    • Rejected FIRE Ad at Bucknell Reported by Student Press Law Center

      September 23, 2009

      The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) has reported on The Bucknellian‘s rejection of FIRE’s advertisement critical of Bucknell University and some of its administrators. The student newspaper rejected the ad, citing a worry that it “crosses a line that could lead to legality issues for the Bucknellian” because it “might be construed as libel.” The ad named Associate Dean of Students Gerald Commerford as the primary malefactor against student rights at Bucknell.  As FIRE has noted for several months, for instance in a May 21 letter to Bucknell’s president regarding Commerford’s actions, The Bucknellian previously reported on Dean Commerford’s actions to shut down and later […]

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    • How Can Bucknell University Get Off FIRE’s Red Alert List?

      September 21, 2009

      Having posed this question regarding Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University—the other five schools on FIRE’s Red Alert List—we today turn to the newest member of the list, Bucknell University. Today’s press release—and its spot on the list—was earned by its continuous and unrepentant censorship of the activities of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC). Bucknell’s troubles started in March when Bucknell administrator Judith Mickanis prevented BUCC from distributing “Obama stimulus dollars,” which bore an image of President Obama on the front and read “Obama’s stimulus plan makes your money as worthless as monopoly […]

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    • Red Alert: Bucknell University Hardens Policy Used to Shut Down Student Protests; Student Newspaper Rejects FIRE Ad

      September 21, 2009

      LEWISBURG, Pa., September 21, 2009—A culture of fear appears to be chilling expression at Bucknell University, where even the student newspaper fears a libel lawsuit from Associate Dean of Students Gerald W. Commerford if it were to print a critical advertisement from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After Bucknell administrators misapplied and abused Bucknell’s Sales and Solicitation and nondiscrimination policies last semester to shut down the Bucknell University Conservatives Club’s (BUCC’s) protests of affirmative action and President Obama’s economic stimulus, the group turned to FIRE for help. Bucknell has expanded and hardened the language in its policies […]

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    • Bucknell Revises ‘Solicitation’ Policy after Administrators Use It Repeatedly to Shut Down Student Speech

      September 18, 2009

      Bucknell University has quietly revised its “Sales and Solicitation” policy after administrators badly misinterpreted it last semester in order to shut down student speech at least twice. Last semester, members of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) stood at Bucknell’s student center and passed out fake dollar bills with President Obama’s face on the front and the sentence “Obama’s stimulus plan makes your money as worthless as monopoly money” on the back. Bucknell administrator Judith L. Mickanis came along, however, and told the students that they were “soliciting” without prior approval. Although the Sales and Solicitation policy explicitly covered only […]

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    • Bucknell’s Oppression of Free Speech in Today’s Issue of ‘Human Events’

      September 9, 2009

      When will Bucknell University realize that trying to suppress free speech is one of the best ways to help the speakers get their message out? Human Events is the latest publication to shine the light of shame on Bucknell’s frequent actions to shut down the expression of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC). The article, coauthored by FIRE Program Officer Peter Bonilla and BUCC President Travis Eaione, describes how Bucknell administrators flouted the university’s commitment to free speech and bent its policies out of shape in order to shut down BUCC’s satirical “affirmative action bake sale” and BUCC’s distribution of […]

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    • Bucknell University Joins Worst Offenders Against Liberty on FIRE’s Red Alert List

      August 25, 2009

      Thanks to its continuous distortions and abuses of its own policies on free expression to suppress political speech, Bucknell University has earned the dubious honor of being placed on FIRE’s Red Alert list. Institutions on the Red Alert list are unrepentant offenders against basic rights that are guaranteed either by the U.S. Constitution or the schools themselves, and they have policies and/or practices that demonstrate a serious and ongoing threat to current and future students. They are the “worst of the worst” when it comes to protecting liberty on campus. Though repeated letters from FIRE, backed up with documentary evidence, […]

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    • FIRE Releases Video about Bucknell Case

      August 12, 2009

      Check out FIRE’s newest video, which comes straight from one of the students embroiled in the ongoing fight for free speech at Bucknell University. Watch as Bucknell University Conservatives Club President Travis Eaione recounts how the Bucknell administration censored his student group on three separate occasions as the group tried to peacefully protest affirmative action policies and President Obama’s stimulus plan. You’ll be shocked at how Bucknell is blatantly betraying the ideal of free speech using phony and patently false excuses. Help FIRE restore free speech and open debate to Bucknell: Listen to Travis’ story, demand that Bucknell’s president restore […]

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    • ‘A Crackdown on Free Speech at … Bucknell University?’

      June 29, 2009

      Check out FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley’s latest column at Pajamas Media, where he takes on Bucknell University’s suppression of a conservative student group. As Torch readers know, Bucknell has repeatedly defended its indefensible actions against the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC), but FIRE will keep the pressure on Bucknell until it lives up to its promises of freedom of speech to its students. And, as Robert points out, if Bucknell doesn’t see the light, it will likely find itself part of our national campaign against “Red Alert” schools this fall. Bucknell does not want to be on that list. To […]

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    • Bucknell University Lies Again

      June 25, 2009

      Maybe someone is feeding false information to Bucknell University General Counsel Wayne A. Bromfield, because his latest response to Bucknell’s free speech meltdown repeats the lies we already have heard from him and Bucknell. The truth is, Bucknell shut down a student group’s protests against President Obama’s stimulus plan and against affirmative action policies, using inapplicable university policies as pretexts. The distribution of “Obama stimulus dollars” by the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) was shut down under an inapplicable solicitation policy, and the administrator who shut it down gleefully said that the students were “busted.” (Here’s the evidence.) Later, the […]

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    • Bucknell President Resigns Effective June 2010

      June 24, 2009

      Maybe it’s related, maybe not. But we know that just one day after the national media picked up Bucknell University’s pattern of mistreatment of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, Bucknell President Brian Mitchell announced his resignation. Bucknell had shut down the group’s protests against President Obama’s stimulus plan and against affirmative action policies, using inapplicable university policies as pretexts. After FIRE publicized the case, Bucknell responded with false and misleading information about what actually happened, contradicting the audio, video, and other documentary evidence of the case. Yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Associated Press, and Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported on […]

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    • AP and ‘Wall Street Journal’ Pick Up on Bucknell’s Violation of Conservative Students’ Rights

      June 23, 2009

      The Associated Press has picked up Susan Snyder’s excellent Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on Bucknell University’s pattern of shutting down events run by the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC). As FIRE’s press release points out, Bucknell not only shut down BUCC’s satirical affirmative action bake sale but also refused to let BUCC hold any such sale in the future, falsely citing Bucknell’s nondiscrimination policy when administrators had to come up with some kind of pretext. Earlier, Bucknell had shut down BUCC’s distribution of “Obama stimulus dollars” in protest of President Obama’s stimulus plan, in that instance falsely citing the university’s solicitation […]

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    • ‘Philadelphia Inquirer’ on Bucknell Bake Sale Fiasco

      June 23, 2009

      The top story in the local section of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer print edition explores Bucknell University’s decision to bar a conservative student group from hosting an affirmative action bake sale on campus. FIRE first wrote to Bucknell on May 21 and issued a press release condemning the school’s actions on June 11 after having received no response from the school. As today’s Inquirer story explains, Bucknell’s hostility to core political speech involves more than just the shutting down of the bake sale event: In March, the club complained that the administration shut down another of its activities – passing out […]

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    • Bucknell Alumni on Bucknell

      June 17, 2009

      The word is getting out to Bucknell University alumni that their alma mater has taken a strong stand against free expression on campus—and so far, they don’t seem too pleased. Alumni group The Alliance for a Better Bucknell issued a statement calling on Bucknell President Brian Mitchell, “in the strongest possible terms, to immediately condemn the recent censorship and proclaim publicly that no one will ever be treated this way again at Bucknell for expressing social or political views.” Indoctrinate U filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney, another Bucknell alumnus, has also condemned Bucknell for its vendetta against the Bucknell University Conservatives […]

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    • Bucknell to Student Conservatives, Liberty: Drop Dead

      June 11, 2009

      Wow, that was fast! Today’s press release about Bucknell’s lamentable ongoing crusade to squelch the expression of the students of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) has shaken a formal response loose in record time—probably less than two hours. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the university did even two minutes’ worth of thinking about the evidence and our arguments, despite the fact that it has been sitting on FIRE’s letter since May 21. In fact, I can’t even figure out how Bucknell General Counsel Wayne A. Bromfield could sit down, read our letter, and produce a presumably straight-faced response that […]

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    • Bucknell University Slams Door on Bibles, Student Satires of Obama Stimulus Plan, Affirmative Action

      June 11, 2009

      It still amazes me that university administrators come up with such flimsy excuses—sometimes even making up rules out of nowhere, on the spot—for interfering with students’ freedom of speech on campus. I reported in April that Bucknell University had shut down a satirical “affirmative action bake sale” on a pretext. On further investigation, FIRE found a pattern of violations of the speech rights that Bucknell’s own policy promises to students. Indeed, as today’s press release details, student rights are under serious assault at Bucknell, where not only the bake sale but also criticism of President Obama’s stimulus plan have repeatedly […]

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    • Bucknell University Slams Door on Student Satires of Obama Stimulus Plan, Affirmative Action

      June 11, 2009

      LEWISBURG, Pa., June 11, 2009—Student rights are under assault at Bucknell University, where a conservative student group’s protests against affirmative action policies and President Obama’s stimulus plan have repeatedly been shut down or forbidden by administrators using flimsy or patently false excuses. After the Bucknell University Conservatives Club (BUCC) had three events censored in two months, the students turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Bucknell promises free speech, but it delivers selective censorship,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Bucknell administrators have gone out of their way to abuse and even invent policies in attempts […]

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