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A cookie sale at Southern Methodist University came to a disturbing end on Sept. 25, 2003. Organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, the sale was intended to be an anti-affirmative action sale, modeled after a similar sale at the University of California, Berkeley in February by the Berkeley College Republicans. The sale at Berkeley had different prices for cookies depending on race and sex of the purchaser and used the same classifications that the university used in its hiring practices. The prices of cookies at Berkeley ranged from $1.50 for white males to $.25 for black women. The sponsors of the Berkeley sale said that the goal was to demonstrate the absurdity of the affirmative action system. The sale produced much protest and heated arguments. One student showed up with a sign reading “Free Cookies for Legacy Students” and another had a sign saying “Free Cookies for Athletes.” The interesting irony of the Berkeley sale was that most of the protest was by the very students who would have benefited from the cheaper cookies, namely women and minorities, and the sale was being conducted by a group of students who thought racial preferences were inherently discriminatory. The sale finally petered out after a protest by Black Republicans, with the sponsors of the sale saying they had made their point and hoped that they got people thinking about the impacts of affirmative action. The cookie sale was repeated on numerous other campuses with similar arguments and debates, with proponents of the sale arguing that it cannot be considered offensive to sell cookies based upon the same racial classifications that are used in hiring or admission of students to the universities. When the sale was held at Southern Methodist University, however, the university ordered the sale discontinued when a student complained it was offensive. It seems that the politically correct police are alive and well at Southern Methodist University. Unfortunately, students at SMU may now return to extracurricular activities common of today’s college students, such as binge drinking and reality TV, without being disturbed by public policy debates. We should encourage colleges and universities to allow free debate and discussion of important public policy issues. It is encouraging to see that this debate occurred at so many universities and that SMU seemed to be the exception rather than the norm.

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