UC Berkeley College Republicans excluded from coalition town hall meeting

Eugene W. Lau/Staff
Community members assemble in the Rochdale apartments Common Room to discuss the Increase Diversity Bake Sale event being held September 27, 2011 on Upper Sproul Plaza. - Eugene W. Lau

Members of the Berkeley College Republicans were excluded from the town hall meeting of a coalition of UC Berkeley students seeking to promote multiculturalism and open dialogue on Friday night.

The coalition was meeting to discuss a response to the highly controversial “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” being organized by the campus Republican organization.

The bake sale plans to incorporate a sliding price scale, with students being charged based on their race and sex. Prices begin at $2 for whites and drop incrementally based on race or ethnicity down to 25 cents for Native Americans.

The meeting originated in the Rochdale Village Apartments and was subsequently moved to the Multicultural Community Center in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, where over 200 people were in attendance.

According to Berkeley College Republicans President Shawn Lewis, a member of the Republican group who gained access to the meeting later that night in the campus multicultural center, an announcement was made barring admittance to Republicans and members of the press.

“We were told that we were not part of the community that needed healing and refused entrance to the meeting,” said Mia Lincoln, external vice president of the Berkeley College Republicans.

Salih Muhammad, one of the leaders of the student coalition, said the Republicans were in fact asked to leave because the meeting was meant to be a venting opportunity for the community.

“If someone slapped you in the face and you were gathering with your family to grieve and cry, then it would be hugely inappropriate for the person who slapped you to show up and try to explain it,” said Ruben Canedo, another leader of the student coalition.

Muhammad added that the Berkeley College Republicans had not shown disrespect at the meeting — rather, the reason for their exclusion was the bake sale itself.

The bylaws of the multicultural center state that “events must be open to the entire campus community.”

Muhammad said it was important for attendees to feel comfortable at the meeting, which they could not if the Berkeley College Republicans were present.

“We were told by Salih that this meeting is for their community, not ours,” Lewis said. “I am totally comfortable saying we were very respectful and not disruptive.”

According to the center’s official website, its goal is to “Provide an educational space for the critical study and practice of multiculturalism.”

Although Canedo said that excluding certain groups may have violated the center’s policy, it was the correct course of action at the time.

“The most important part of the meeting was the security and health of those involved, so we feel like we made the correct decision,” he said.