UC Berkeley administrators send out campus wide letter condemning bake sale

Below is the full text of a letter sent by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion Gibor Basri, and  Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande.

For full coverage of the Berkeley College Republicans’ bake sale controversy see The Daily Californian’s topic page here. 

Date Sep 26 2011 06:05:44 PM

Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor

To

Academic Senate Faculty, Staff, All Academic Titles, Other Members of the Campus Community, Emeriti, Students,

An Open Letter to the Campus Community

Last week an incident occurred that was contrary to the Principles of Community we espouse as a campus. The Berkeley College Republicans (an ASUC sponsored organization) publicized an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” that prices baked goods according to a person’s ethnicity, race, or gender. This event has moved the campus community into dialogue, because it was hurtful or offensive to many of its members.

Illustrating the breadth of the offense taken, last night the ASUC Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the methodology used by BCR and urging respectful conduct by all student organizations. The administration firmly endorses those sentiments. It is our sincere hope that the strong reactions generated by the proposed bake sale 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 Principles of Community are not about political positions. They require a consciousness of the potential effect of words or deeds on others: a positive intent not to hurt, offend, or denigrate others while expressing a reasoned position. Regardless what policies or practices one advocates, careful consideration is needed on how to express those opinions. The issue is not whether one thinks an action is satirical or inoffensive, the issue is whether community members will be intentionally – or unintentionally – hurt or demeaned by that action. The same applies to the way we interact with each other, whether academically, professionally, or socially.

If we, as a community, do not live with these expectations, then our Principles of Community (which the community authored) are just words on a page. The administration can urge, but not mandate, a person to behave with civility. We can express our disappointment or condemnation when respectfulness is abused. It is the community who must hold each other accountable for behaviors that do not reflect our communal values.

Forbearance and consciousness of how one’s actions may affect others should always be a strong consideration. We celebrate the exchange of ideas through the freedoms we share as a nation, but intelligent debate is based on mutual respect. Freedom of speech is not properly exercised without taking responsibility for its impact. Taking that responsibility does not negate the freedom, it brings an enhanced humanity to it.

Sincerely,

Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor
Gibor Basri, Vice Chancellor – Equity & Inclusion
Harry LeGrande, Vice Chancellor – Student Affairs