Administrators speak out on planned ‘diversity bake sale’

In a CalMessage to the campus community, three top UC Berkeley administrators, including Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, say that the “strong reactions” to today’s scheduled “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” — an event sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans — “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 event, which the ASUC-sponsored group has billed as satire, was to price 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 — notes 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.”

The 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.”

In an interview with the New York Times, the president of the Berkeley College Republicans, Shawn Lewis, characterized the event as a satirical opposition to a bill in the California Legislature that would allow public universities to consider race, gender and ethnicity in admissions decisions.

“Treating people differently based on the color of their skin is wrong, and we wanted people to be upset about that,” Lewis told the paper.

The administrators’ message calls the planned event “contrary to the Principles of Community,” and says it is up to the campus community to ensure that its members behave with civility and respect for others.

“Freedom of speech is not properly exercised without taking responsibility for its impact,” they write. “Taking that responsibility does not negate the freedom, it brings an enhanced humanity to it.”