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


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.


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

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  • Anonymous

    In order to protect free speech, BCR needs to be banned from campus, and all current or former members expelled.

    • Anonymous

      University of California Berkeley:
      the need for transparency has never been so clear. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau
      ($500,000 salary) displaces qualified for public university education at Cal. instate
      Californians for a $50,600 payment and a foreign passport.

      UC Berkeley, ranked # 70 Forbes, is not increasing
      enrollment.  Birgeneau accepts $50,600
      FOREIGN students at the expense of qualified Californians.

      UC Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof agree to discriminating
      against instate Californians for foreigners. Birgeneau, Yudof, Lansing need to answer to Californians.

      Your opinion makes a difference; email UC Board of
      Regents   [email protected]

  • laura

    This same bake sale varied price structure  has been used as a teaching tool to demonstrate gender wage inequity in classroom plenty of times.

    Berkeley could sure use some diversity of intellectual thought.

    Not surprising, plenty of Dems and Libs see the failure of racial preferences which is why 209 passed.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who was at Berkeley at time of the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements and a former member of the ASUC senate, I am saddened by most of the comments I see.  Does anyone really believe that such “objective” measures as SAT scores are independent of socioeconomic  status or race?  How many of you raised your scores by taking expensive test prep classes from the Princeton Review or Kaplan?  Chancellor Birgeneau’s letter is judicious and reflects the ideals of the Free Speech Movement.  Free speech, to quote the language of Holmes and Brandeis is “freedom for the thought that we hate.”  There is nothing wrong with the Chancellor fighting speech with more speech.  Forty-five years ago I was in Sproul Plaza when Mario Savio passed out a leaflet and was subsequently denied readmission to Berkeley.  That is not what Chancellor Birgeneau is doing.

    • Um, all the statistics show that test prep increase scores about 30 points on average. Additional time invested into test prep after a certain point yields only marginal benefits.


      Studies over the last few decades have shown roughly the same conclusion: coaching helps–a little bit. If you want to give poor people 30 additional points on their SAT, go for it. (Although there’s plenty of free, high-quality coaching available in minority communities.) That’s not what affirmative action does–it gives preferences (usually far more than the equivalent of 30 points) to people based on race, not only on socioeconomic status. Wealthy minorities can and do get expensive coaching just as much as wealthy whites–why should they get an advantage over a poor white kid?

  • Anonymous

    Chancellor Birgeneau of UC Berkeley discriminates at admission against instate Californians for a $50,600 payment.

    of California Berkeley Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau
    ($500,000 salary), displaces qualified for public university education at Cal.
    Californians with $50,600 FOREIGN students.


    Ranked # 70 by Forbes, the University of California
    Berkeley is not increasing enrollment.  $50,600 FOREIGN students are accepted by
    Birgeneau at the expense of qualified instate students.


    UC Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof agree discriminating
    against instate Californians for admission to UC Berkeley. Birgeneau, Yudof, Lansing need to answer to


    Your opinion makes a difference; email UC Board of
    Regents   [email protected]

  • Berkelyneighbor

    The comments here are unsettling and powerful. They are an example of a generational shift in attitude and perspective  and lack of approprite understanding for history.
    BCR’s actions were offensive on so many levels. It has the right to it’s freedom of speech. the chancellor was diligent in responding as he should have in  a timely manner. 

    • Zoom

      Name a single level on which the BCR’s actions were offensive.

      • PPK

        Ignoring the subtext that one group is worth more than another, I find the bake sale offensive because it completely ignores injustices and inequities that continue to exist in our country. I feel that the BCR are attempting to state that it should be self-evident that race, ethnicity, and gender should not be considered in admissions officially, ignoring the fact that, on the main, these attributes have a significant impact on an individual’s access to opportunity. Of course race, ethnicity, and gender shouldn’t be a factor, but the reality is different. I personally love provocative statements that get the blood boiling and spur debate, but I think that the BCR missed an opportunity to address the true issue.

        • Zoom

          “Ignoring the subtext that one group is worth more than another”

          Which is NOT what the bake sale did. It CHARGED different amounts based on ethnicity – in other words, created different standards (in this case, price) for individuals based on race.

          “….find the bake sale offensive because it completely ignores injustices and inequities that continue to exist in our country.”

          How is that offensive?

          Ignored? No. Disagreed with the assertions regarding individual responsibility for any perceived inequities, whether certain things are unjust, and with the proposed policy solutions for said inequalities which may or may not exist.

          Disagreement is not offensive – at least not intentionally so. That said, people across political spectrums get offended by opposing views all the time. The right is often offended by opinions held by the left too. So what?

      • Anonymous

        It argues against racial preferences, and being against racial preferences is racist.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t agree with the BCR’s plan – I find it offensive – but asking them to self-censor is shameful, no matter how nicely you phrase your request.  Speaking up about *any* controversial issue is bound to offend people.  Rather than asking the BCR not to exercise their freedom to express their opinions, those with opposing views should come out and express theirs. 

    I think a carnival booth would compliment the bake sale quite nicely.  Pay $5, knock down the stack of bottles 3 times out of 5 and win a prize.  Caucasians get $2, Latinos get $1.75, African Americans get $1.25, and women get  $1 and a pat on the butt (or whatever amounts accurately reflect the income gaps). 

    UC Berkeley is seen as a school for the “smart kids”.  Instead of getting butthurt and trying to silence the opposition, try living up to your reputation and using your words.  If the BCR is wrong, tell us why. 

    • Anonymous

      Allowing people with wrong opinions to express them is not free speech. It is damaging to free speech. The BCR must be expelled and anyone who saw their message re-educated.

      • Anonymous

        Go back to watching your bug-zapper, trollio.

  • Zoom

    The idea that the Principles of Community are not biased and not used to discriminate against particular political positions is ludicrous.  No one seems to care one iota about civility when liberal or leftist ideas are espoused. In fact, Caucasians, Christians and Jews are constantly denigrated on campus and even in the classroom by university employees, and yet Birgeneau feels the need to single out this particular form of satire. The fact of the matter is, the bake sale is an accurate display of the sort of affirmative action policies promoted by the left and engaged in by universities for years previous to 209. This letter is unprofessional and biased, written by an overpaid parasite. Start applying your principles across the board, then start discussing “communal values” without the rest of us laughing in your face. Stop use “you hurt someone’s feelings” to squash political debate and attack the students you are supposed to be serving.

    • Anonymous

      The “students you are supposed to be serving” are the non-racists. The Republicans are racist and are only there to interfere with learning and attack the community. To preserve freedom of thought, they must be expelled, and their parents fired from their jobs.

      • perlhaqr

        This is the real problem with sarcasm on the internet today, no matter how extreme one is in the hopes that one’s sarcasm will be detectable, a reader is likely to have encountered the very same position genuinely advocated.

        So, I hope I’m misreading an attempt at heavily ironic sarcasm, but on the chance that you actually think this way, I’d just like to point out that the entire purpose of the Republican Diversity Bake Sale was to demonstrate their belief that treating people differently based on their gross phenotypical differences (i.e.: gender or skin color) is fundamentally wrong.

        And just in case you’re not being sarcastic, I sincerely hope that one day you will grasp the irony of your stated position that in order to preserve freedom of thought, a certain group of people must be censored.

  • Dbisbee2000

    The bakesale is only as offensive as SB185 . You should see that you are offending others by  using their race or gender,  instead of their  own academic abilities for entrance.  Are those of other races, other than WASP, unable to study at university? Why must you decide by the color of their skin, instead of their academics and extracurricular accomplishments?

    • Unity

      SB185 “considers” those factors ALONG with academic abilities and extracurricular accomplishments! NOT instead…

  • Perspective

    While I don’t agree with the means by which the BCR is conducting the bake sale, Chancellor Birgeneau’s call for civility may be misplaced, 50 years ago it wouldn’t surprise me if a similar letter was penned calling for the end of the civil rights movement as an uncivil breach of our principles of community; following wide-spread protest over desegregation. 

    Unfortunately, often the most important of causes can only be challenged and brought to light uncivilly, as the civil means of discourse is silence. While I can neither assert nor claim racism to be eradicated, I can say with utmost confidence that the barriers it once raised are memories of our parents and grandparents, and today discrimination is more about the color of our grandparents skin not our own.

    By which I mean that today’s racial bias is not the fault of racism, but of past racism. The racism of Jim Crow forced minorities into a position of poverty disproportional to what it should have been, and the killer in poverty is that it is a cycle, the children end up bearing the same burden as their parents. Worse is that mixed-income neighborhoods are still a dream of the future, as a result the poor clamor together in ghettos – ghettos which do not have the money for properly funded schools, and as a result children are robbed of opportunities to escape the poverty, working instead to help pay for groceries. Today’s “racism” is so much about race as it is about means, but the history of the mater means that minorities are disparately impacted, and as such it appears to be racism.

  • Katelyn Sills

    By advocating for self-censorship under the guise of “civility,” Birgeneau is creating a chilling effect on free speech. “It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies.” —-William O. Douglas

  • Symplyenfuego

    Chancellor B is a hypocrite.  The administration’s response does nothing but ignore the salient point that these young people aimed to make – that discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, or gender should not be tolerated in any form.  I applaud the BCR.