The Berkeley College Republicans have recently drawn the attention of local news media, having stirred controversy throughout campus for their decision to hold an “affirmative action bake sale” to coincide with SB 185, a bill that would allow the UCs and CSUs to utilize ethnicity in the applications process. The event, billed as satirical by its proponents, does not promote meaningful political dialogue or opposition to the bill; instead, it shows the poor judgment of the organization.
As the former president of the Berkeley College Republicans, I know what the campus political climate is at Berkeley. Conservatives are largely outnumbered in the famously liberal university campus. It is great that organizations such as The California Patriot and the Berkeley College Republicans exist, as they are able to provide a safe space for the discussion of new, open and, most importantly, contrasting opinions and ideas. Is that not the mission of higher education?
However, there exists a right and wrong way for exchanging and encouraging healthy political debate and dialogue. The bake sale is far from this, serving instead to instigate a reaction from those in favor of affirmative action. While clearly sarcastic and in jest, the description of the event is a blatant attempt to stir up dissent.
The bake sale occurs one year after campuses across the UC system saw ethnic tensions reach new heights. In San Diego, black students were the target of negative stereotypes and symbolism such as the noose and slurs. Similarly, at Davis and Berkeley, swastikas were drawn on Jewish students’ dorm rooms and campus buildings. In Los Angeles and Merced, online videos by students quickly went viral as their creators mocked Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, respectively. While the event itself is not racist in and of itself, surely, whether you are in favor or against the policy of affirmative action, you can agree that the Berkeley College Republicans’ timing in this event was nothing but poor and shortsighted.
The fact of the matter is that the United States is a democracy. As Americans, we are blessed that we can freely exchange and engage in open dialogue and debate without any repercussions from our government or in our case as students, the university. The Berkeley College Republicans has the right to host this event. Opponents of the bake sale also have the right to protest and have an event to counter. However, what we cannot allow are attempts to impede the First Amendment rights of either side. Every one of us should meet calls for violence and attempts to intimidate either the Berkeley College Republicans or their opponents with strong condemnation.
While the Berkeley College Republicans has the right to host this event, they should not. This event will do nothing to progress genuine political dialogue over affirmative action and whether Berkeley or other UC and CSU campuses should employ it. Instead, those who care about the issue of affirmative action should utilize the political and democratic processes at our disposal. The bake sale is intended to coincide with the on-campus phone-banking efforts of those in favor of the policy. For those opposed to SB 185, why not lobby your representatives and politicians just as those in favor already seek to do? I assure you, it will make a larger political impact than simply creating controversy at Berkeley.
Rick Chen is a UC Berkeley senior and former president of the Berkeley College Republicans.