UC Berkeley Republicans consider bake sale success, despite criticism

A member of the Berkeley College Republicans sits behind the Increase Diversity bake sale table on Upper Sproul Plaza.
Edwin Cho/Staff
A member of the Berkeley College Republicans sits behind the Increase Diversity bake sale table on Upper Sproul Plaza.

If he had a chance to do it again in the future, said Berkeley College Republicans President Shawn Lewis, he wouldn’t.

But Lewis believes that Tuesday’s “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” which led to international uproar, disapproval from the campus student government and administration and violent threats for the group’s members, was largely a success.

“I don’t regret the fact that we’ve started a debate on campus,” he said.

The group’s message was this: that the entire event is a satirical representation of SB 185, which would allow the UC “to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions” to the extent allowed under federal and state constitutions.

One sign, held by a Berkeley Republican, clearly outlined the source of the controversy, which was the baked goods’ pricing schedule: $2 for Caucasians, $1.50 for Asian or Asian Americans, $1 for Latinos, $0.75 for African Americans, and $0.25 for Native Americans with a blanket $0.25 discount for women.

He and other members of his group acknowledged that the sale was racist, but deliberately so.

“Sometimes you have to do things that are wrong in order to correct things which are more wrong,” said former UC Regent Ward Connerly, who was present at the sale and who was the main proponent behind Proposition 209, banning affirmative action in California with its implementation in 1997.

But much of the campus disagreed both before and during the event. Over the course of the weekend, reactions to the bake sale ranged from annoyed to vitriolic as many wondered how the campus Republicans could act so tactlessly on a topic like race.

On Sunday, the ASUC Senate passed a bill frowning on Berkeley College Republican’s bake sale. Yesterday, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a campuswide message denouncing the bake sale’s tactics. And during the event, the group fielded accusations from BAMN, campus political science professor Wendy Brown and campus Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri.

Lewis and the Republicans were undeterred. Rather, Lewis and others welcomed the attention, which thrust an often overlooked student group to the forefront of campus politics. He said Gov. Jerry Brown’s impending action on SB 185 — due by Oct. 9 — and the ASUC’s phone banking in support of the bill necessitated the Republicans’ action.

“It’s all about publicity,” Lewis said. “I’m actually glad that the media is here.”

For much of the day, throngs of people both in support and in opposition to SB 185 surrounded the bake sale table. Small groups fervently debated one another on the merits of power structures, social stratification and identity as others exchanged money for cupcakes.

While many came to denounce the sale, some passersby, like UC Berkeley junior Steve Rossi, a veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, supported the group’s stance against SB 185 and joined the group’s demonstration.

“When you racially profile, you’re taking away freedom,” Rossi said. “This is pretty important.”

Lewis said that the idea for the bake sale met no vocal opposition from anybody inside the Republicans group and that generally the members of the group present, about 15 to 20 or so, were happy with the day’s events.

“I think really it’s a civilization issue,” said Berkeley College Republicans Vice President Derek Zhou. “In order to move society forward, you’ve gotta look past race.”

Read The Daily Californian’s coverage of the multicultural coalition’s counter-protest during Tuesday’s bake sale.

Clarification

A previous version of this article may have implied that Shawn Lewis, president of Berkeley College Republicans, would not have held the bake sale if he had a chance to go back in time. In fact, he would not repeat it in the future.