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'Diversity' bake sale at UC Berkeley stirs debate

September 26, 2011 |  4:56 pm

Students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. 
A UC Berkeley student group is stirring both support and outrage nationwide over its planned Tuesday bake sale that is pricing items according to the buyer’s race, ethnicity and gender.

The satirical event — titled the Increase Diversity Bake Sale – is a reprise of similar cookie sales held on college campuses by Republican clubs over the years. It was scheduled to counter a student-led effort urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill to allow the University of California and California State University systems to consider race, ethnicity and gender in student admissions.

Leaders with the Berkeley College Republicans said their intent was to highlight the impropriety of basing decisions on race or gender. The sale, according to a posting on Facebook, will offer five pricing levels, with pastries described as “White/Caucasian” going for $2, “Asian/American American” for $1.50, “Latino/Hispanic” for $1, “Black/African American” for 75 cents, and “Native American” for a quarter. A 25-cent discount will be offered to women.

“If you don't come, you're a racist,” said an announcement late last week publicizing the event.

The response was swift.

“It blew up on Facebook and social media, with students of color and [their] allies,” said Joey Freeman, an officer with the Associated Students of the University of California, which supports the admissions legislation.

“We were really taken aback and, frankly, disgusted,” he said.

The Associated Students senate on Sunday unanimously approved a resolution condemning “the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group.”

Alfredo Mireles Jr., a UC San Francisco nursing student who is a member of UC's Board of Regents, issued a statement condemning the sale as “a common stunt performed by college Republican groups to protest affirmative action policies.” Indeed, sudent clubs at UCLA, UC Berkeley and elsewhere hosted similar events in 2003, charging different prices for chocolate chip cookies on the basis of the customers’ race. They provoked similar protests and allegations that the organizers were racist.

“Not only is it offensive but it’s unoriginal,” said Mireles, who warned that an overreaction to the tactic could distract from the more important policy discussion. “If they are trying to get media attention they’ve been incredibly successful, he said. “But as far as winning people to their side of the argument I guarantee there are probably fewer people who want to be seen as sympathetic to this type of stunt because it’s totally inflammatory.”

By Monday, however, the tone of the debate was shifting. The Facebook page promoting the sale was trending largely in favor of the stunt, with comments from across the country.

“You guys totally rock,” posted Dale Brown. “Once again the leftist media have completely missed the point of your protest, which is why they are calling you bigots and the protest racist. If they were truly interested in racial equality, they would be the loudest voices” against the admissions legislation.

CampusReform.org, which supports conservative activists on campuses across the country, also weighed in, musing that media critical of the event actually may be “playing into the hands of these College Republicans.”

“After all, the point of the event is to show how racist and sexist affirmative action is,” a CampusReform.org organizer wrote. “If the people are so offended about the race and gender based pricing, shouldn't they also be offended when the legislature does essentially the same thing for college admissions?”

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-- Lee Romney in San Francisco and Larry Gordon in Los Angeles

Photo: Students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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