‘Diversity bake sale’ stirs anger, protests — and discussion

Responding to a Berkeley College Republicans-sponsored bake sale meant to satirize affirmative-action efforts, hundreds of black-clad counter-demonstrators staged a powerful protest on Sproul Plaza on Tuesday, holding placards that read “Don’t UC Us” and lying silently on the ground.

Former UC Regent Ward Connerly, a driving force behind Proposition 209, which bans public institutions such as UC Berkeley from considering race, ethnicity or sex in admissions, was on hand to help with the sale.

bake sale

(Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photos)

Others described the event, which the ASUC-sponsored Republican club staged to publicize their opposition to SB 185, a pro-affirmative action bill awaiting action from Gov. Jerry Brown, as racist, insensitive or uncivil — or all three.

In a CalMessage to the campus community before the event, three top UC Berkeley administrators, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, said the “strong reactions” since the sale was announced “provide a vivid lesson that issues of race, ethnicity, and gender are far from resolved, and very much a part of lived experience here and now.”

The sale priced baked goods according to the buyer’s ethnicity, race or gender. Noting “the breadth of the offense taken,” the message — also signed by Gibor Basri, vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, and Harry LeGrande, vice chancellor for student affairs — noted that the ASUC Senate unanimously passed a resolution Sunday condemning the methodology used by the group, and urging respectful conduct by all student organizations.

“The administration,” it adds, “firmly endorses those sentiments.”

ASUC President Vishalli Loomba, terming the controversy “a campus climate issue,” said that students “feel really uncomfortable and offended by the bake sale.”

Thproteste point of Sunday’s resolution, she said, was “to make sure student groups keep in mind the value of equity and inclusion — which, historically and today, are a large value at UC Berkeley for all our events and activities.”

Soon after 1 p.m. Tuesday, when the cupcakes were gone and the protests over, observers on both sides of the issue agreed that the day had produced a peaceful, if sometimes uneasy, dialogue on issues of importance to the campus, from race and affirmative action to the Principles of Community. 

“People are engaging and talking about the issue, and that’s exactly what we wanted,” said Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans. “More than buying cookies, or not, people are sitting around the table and talking about race and ethnicity, and that’s productive.”