While yesterday marked a day of advocacy at 10 UC campuses for the approval of a proposed state measure that would authorize public universities to consider factors such as gender and race in the college admissions process, the UC Berkeley College Republicans hosted an ‘Increase Diversity Bake Sale’ with differential pricing by race and gender in protest of the bill.
The widely publicized demonstration charged Caucasian students $2 for the same cupcakes that cost African American students 75 cents and required only a quarter per confection for those of Native American descent, with all women receiving an additional 25 cents off. The sale intended to ironically parallel SB 185, which currently rests on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk following its passage by both houses of the state legislature.
Despite marked contention, the dessert demonstration went forward after UC Berkeley’s student government unanimously endorsed SB 185 and funded a phone bank allowing students to call the governor in support of the legislation.
Berkeley College Republicans President Shawn Lewis said the sale simply encouraged discussion among students with a diverse range of political viewpoints.
“We faced a controversial subject with a controversial event,” Lewis said. “At no point was this ever designed to personally attack any person or any group, or make anybody feel bad for who they are or for their ethnicity. The reality is that even if this event did push the line of [being] offensive, no one can deny that it caused a debate to happen on campus.”
According to UC Berkeley’s student newspaper The Daily Californian, the group did not enforce their tiered pricing system and allowed customers to pay any price for the goods. Former UC Regent and staunch affirmative action opponent Ward Connerly stood behind the club both literally and figuratively, sitting in solidarity with the students as they sold their treats.
UCSB’s A.S. EVPSA Ahmed Mostafa said the group’s actions were insensitive and undermined the issue of race.
“I think it’s their First Amendment right to say whatever they want, but I completely disagree with how they portrayed their actions,” Mostafa said. “Not less than 50 years ago, people were segregated so it’s severely insensitive to hold a bake sale based on racial segregation.”
Many opponents of SB 185 argue that the bill is unconstitutional and cite the legal precedent set by Proposition 209, a measure passed by popular vote in 1996 that banned institutional affirmative action in California’s public schools.
However, Berkeley College Democrats Communications Director Mia Hodge said SB 185 does not instate specific requirements and is thus within constitutional parameters.
“This is not a quota system; it is just a way to move toward more holistically evaluating applicants to the University of California,” Hodge said.
Despite a current underrepresentation of minorities in the UCSB student body, UCSB College Republicans President Steven Begakis said the cupcake contention garnered more negative attention than was warranted.
“As a matter of rational good policy, it is better that people are admitted to school based on their qualifications regardless of what their skin color is,” Begakis said. “Some people cannot take a joke. Ultimately, what they are trying to say is that we want diversity but not discrimination.”
Carolyn Ponting, a third-year at UC Berkeley, said she feels the event was an unfounded attempt to characterize the new law as discrimination towards whites.
“There is an assumption that if only the underrepresented and historically oppressed and colonized communities could lighten up and get the joke there would be no problem,” Ponting said. “To play the reverse racism card in a university setting that is grossly unrepresentative of California’s population is not just false — it’s inflammatory.”
Marissa Wenzke contributed to this article.