On a campus where conflicting ideologies often result in contention and clashes, the results of the demonstrations Tuesday were pleasantly surprising.
The bake sale and the counter-protest spurred conversation and civil demonstrations. Threats of violence against the Berkeley College Republicans were not realized, and opposing groups avoided aggressive confrontation. Upper Sproul Plaza was alive with activity and members of the Republican group, the ASUC effort supporting SB 185 and The Coalition appeared open to engage with passersby. Our campus was, at last, conversive.
Even more unusual was the presence of UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry LeGrande. While administrators have traditionally been absent from demonstrations, these two officials stood visibly among students during all of the hubbub. Basri and LeGrande also joined Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in disseminating a fair response to the controversy surrounding the bake sale the day before it occurred. Still, we are dismayed that top administrators rarely speak out and make an appearance at demonstrations. Campus officials must make better efforts to have a consistent, visible presence on campus, especially in matters of such great importance to students.
But however successful the day was, the conversation that began on Sproul must not come to a close, as it seems to be fading already. We still see few parties taking active initiative to conduct debates or to hold forums to fully address the important topics raised through all of the contention — race, diversity and affirmative action. The most significant result of the bake sale was that it was able to elicit such a strong reaction from students, faculty members and administrators on campus and beyond, and to let the issues dissolve now would waste a unique opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas.
The discussion must continue for the sake of improved understanding and intellectual debate. We hope other groups and organizations like BAMN will step up to the plate to organize thought-provoking conversations and actively pursue continued dialogue.