The Berkeley College Republicans held an “affirmative action” bake sale Wednesday on Sproul Plaza, charging customers different prices based on their race.
A white person paid $1.50 for a chocolate chip cookie, a Mexican-American paid 74 cents and black person paid a quarter.
The goal, the students said, was to highlight the inherent unfairness of using race preferences in admissions or hiring.
The issue has been gaining attention on campuses nationwide as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to consider next month the race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Michigan.
“It’s a visual argument for how affirmative action works on an everyday basis,” said Andrea Irvin, a member of the Berkeley College Republicans. “It shows the ridiculousness of the program.”
Within minutes of setting up their display on Sproul Plaza, other students began challenging that perspective.
Arguments, both heated and civil, continued for hours.
“I’m interested in your flattening out of a complicated argument,” junior Patrick Conner said to students standing behind the Republican table. “I find it extremely irritating, insulting and rather naive. I suggest you study history more.”
In one exchange among students Wednesday, Kelly Coyne, of the Berkeley College Republicans, called affirmative action a Band-Aid for a problem rooted in a broken public education system that needs fixing.
“I guess my question to you is: How are we going to address our unfair society?” responded Don Hughes, a Berkeley resident. “If you go to a school where most of the students are black, you can be pretty sure that school will have less money than a school that is white.”
One Berkeley student, freshman Tracy Ross, protested the Republicans display with a sign that read, “free cookies for athletes,” and “free cookies for legacy students,” a reference to those whose parents attended Cal.
“If we’re going to talk about one form of affirmative action, we should talk about a few other forms that exist,” she said.
Not all students engaged in the debate, which at times involved a big knot of people clogging up Sproul. One onlooker, craning to see what was going on, quipped to a friend, “Oh, it’s that black-white thing,” and walked away.