This is the true story of MSU College Republicans and a group of pro-affirmative action activists, picked to share a room at the Union to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting rude.
In a move that overstepped reasonable discourse and essentially spat on manners and maturity, about 25 pro-affirmative action protesters - from campus groups, other Michigan universities and the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN - disrupted a meeting of the College Republicans on Wednesday night.
They jeered guest speaker Barbara Grutter and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to the extent that MSU police were dispatched to disperse the crowd.
Grutter, a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan Law School's racial-preference practices, is a supporter of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, an organization seeking to ban racial preferences by means of a state constitutional amendment. Protesters booed and hissed Grutter effectively enough that an informative public address was impossible, and the meeting was cut short.
To the pro-affirmative action activists responsible, how do you explain your attempt to initiate debate by loudly interrupting enough that dialogue is rendered ineffective? A one-sided yelling match in a confined space is not only contradictory to raising the level of affirmative action discourse, it gives organizations such as BAMN bad press and lowers levels of credibility.
"Professional" protesters, shame on you. You should know better.
The State News has made clear its position on affirmative action and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative this semester. We support affirmative action in our state's universities, but we do not feel the issue should be placed before voters for constitutional consideration. To be sure, that is not a measure to dictate whom should be able to vote on what; we simply believe that the benefits of affirmative action can not be accurately gauged against its shortcomings when boiled down to a "yes" or "no" vote.
Therefore, we agree with some of the motives that BAMN and other protest groups operate under. We believe protesting is free speech, and we believe in the power of the First Amendment to exercise those rights.
But there's the right way to get one's point across, and there's a wrong way. Drowning out a speaker and her supporters in a confined meeting space would be the wrong way. We encourage students to visit with groups on the other side of their political scope but to do so in a respectful and measured manner.
The College Republicans are offended by such activism and have issued statements in the same vein of this editorial. We agree with the College Republicans that the level of dialogue on campus should be limitless, but there are responsible ways to do so. Moreover, the College Republicans had not issued a representative stance on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at the time of the meeting.
There is no winner when the power to protest and encourage debate is abused. We should embrace our freedom to do so, but remember to respect both sides of the argument.