Bake Sale at U.C. Berkeley Stirs Controversy

Bake sales are usually never controversial.  Not at U.C. Berkeley.  Today, September 27th, College Republicans at UCB hosted a satirical bake sale that depicted the unfairness of affirmative action by pricing items according to a buyer’s race.  The bake sale charged whites $2 per item, Asian Americans $1.50, Latinos/Hispanics $1, and African Americans 75 cents.  Native Americans and women were offered a 25-cent discount.  The “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” simultaneously took place during a phone banking event sponsored by the U.C. student government, just yards away, urging Governor Brown to sign S.B. 185, which enables “the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions.”  The vague bill does not mention socioeconomic factors.

The response to CR’s “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” has been astonishing, and slightly amusing, this writer thinks. The Democrats hosted a “Conscious Cupcakes Giveaway” next to their table.  On a more serious note, President of College Republicans, Shawn Lewis, said that people made “physical threats” on a Facebook group that advertised their event. One comment claimed that items would be purchased and then thrown back at the table. Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau wrote in an open letter, “The administration can urge, but not mandate, a person to behave with civility.  Freedom of speech is not properly exercised without taking responsibility for its impact.”

This country needs to have a serious discussion about the validity of affirmative action in college admissions. While I understand that people of color have gone through hardships in the past, this country is becoming more diverse, and as time passes preferential admissions seems to be more irrelevant.  More importantly, the real issue should focus on education.  The United States is falling behind the race compared to other countries.  Education, not political correctness, should be America’s number one priority. 

The bake sale at U.C. Berkeley not only illustrates the inequities of affirmative action at a very basic level, but also highlights the extreme sensitivity of this topic, which makes it tricky to have constructive conversation about preferable choices in college admissions.  I cannot help but think that negative reactions to the bake sale is a paradox in an era of civility where we must be “open-minded” and gain “perspective” about important issues in our country. 

Check out Shawn Lewis’ reasoning and thoughts about the bake sale and S.B. 185 here.

–Melanie Wilcox