Republicans' 'diversity bake sale' met with protests

September 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The College Republicans called it a satire on affirmative action, but Tuesday's bake sale at UC Berkeley, which priced goodies based on the buyer's race and gender, drew loud protests and complaints of bad taste.

The campus administration came out against it. The student union condemned it and is threatening to pull funding for the Berkeley College Republicans, but the group did not back down. They went ahead with their bake sale even as their critics walked through the crowd, offering their own baked goods for free.

With pastries priced based on the buyers' ethnicity, it was a bake sale that became about much more than cupcakes or cookies. An effort at satire by the UC Berkeley College Republicans sparked a lively debate about race and its place in college admissions at a public university.

"Reducing affirmative action to a bake sale that basically says you're getting a free ride is extremely problematic," student Tatianna Peck said.

"We understand they're trying to be ironic, but it's highly offensive and I'm ashamed it's happening on this campus," student Ronnie Kabooza said.

The heart of the issue is Senate Bill 185, which would allow race and ethnicity to be used as part of the criteria for admissions to UC Berkeley and other public institutions.

"If one wants to have a political discussion, one needs to be careful about the effect it has on the campus climate," Vice-Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri said.

Among those manning the bake sale table was former UC Regent Ward Connerly.

"Is this a racist kind of thing? Yeah it is, but sometimes the only way to shed light on an abuse is to satirize it," Connerly said.

Former UC Berkeley student Andre Louis supports the Republican bake sale.

"I think as many African American men who are qualified to compete at the educational level of this great university should be allowed in, but it's not acceptable to lower the standards of the institution in the name of a political agenda," Louis said.

While the debate raged on at the bake sale table, hundreds of students staged a silent protest in front of Sproul Hall.

As for the bill at the center of this controversy, Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign or veto it.

The bake sale did raise a few hundred dollars. The College Republicans say it will go to an unnamed charity that provides services for veterans.


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