The bake sale publicity stunt pulled by the UC Berkeley College Republicans was completely insensitive to the challenges faced by minorities who want to obtain a higher education. They basically made it impossible for most people to take them seriously because of their “joking” portrayal of the issue, which is a shame because they may have had valid points to make.

That being said, I have to agree that race and gender should not be considered in college admissions. Ultimately, the only reason why someone should be admitted to any given college is their demonstration of a level of academic and intellectual ability on par with the standards of that college. Admitting students due to something like race, gender, athletic ability or socioeconomic level — even if they are not academically or intellectually qualified — lowers the standards of the college and forces the college to provide a less rigorous education for everyone, including those who are academically and intellectually qualified.

College is not the place to start fixing the issue of minority misrepresentation in higher education. Focus needs to be put on improving grade school education so that minority children get a better education from the start, and are thus prepared for the academic rigor expected of them in college. If this were the case, there would be no need to consider their minority status at all, because they would get in on their own merit instead of something they have no control over.

This is no easy task, but it is my opinion that striving for the best grade school education possible is the most important long-term issue our country currently faces. If more attention is devoted to this issue, we will fix the problem from the bottom up.

Jo Downes is a UCSB alumna.