SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Student Republicans at the University of California at Berkeley have stirred up the famously left-wing campus with plans for a sale of baked goods priced according to the race and gender of buyers.
A Facebook promotion of the event, set for Tuesday, has drawn cries of racism and misogyny on the social networking site, and student body president Vishalli Loomba called what the Berkeley College Republicans were doing offensive.
The school’s chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, weighed in on Monday night with an open letter condemning the planned bake sale as contrary to campus “Principles of Community” that call for debate to be conducted in a respectful manner.
Organizers say their “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” is meant as satiric political commentary on new legislation that would again allow California’s public universities to consider the race, gender, ethnicity and national origin of admissions applicants.
The sale is scheduled to take place near a campus phone bank set up by supporters of the bill, SB 185, to lobby for Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to sign the measure into law.
The original Facebook post for the event said pastries sold at the event would be priced at $2 each for white customers, $1.50 for buyers of Asian descent, $1 for Latinos, 75 cents for black customers and 25 cents for American Indians. All women would get a 25 cent discount.
The post said the pricing structure was designed to “ensure the equitable distribution of BAKED GOODS to our DIVERSE! student body.”
Loomba said Berkeley “students are talking about this everywhere I go.”
“They’ve been able to get a lot of publicity, but at what cost? They are creating an environment of divisiveness,” she told Reuters. “You can’t justify doing something this offensive and making students of this school feel uncomfortable.”
Leaders of the student Republicans were not immediately available for comment. But the group’s president, Shawn Lewis, said in a statement posted on its website that “physical threats” were made against organizers of the bake sale, including suggestions that cupcakes would be purchased and then hurled back in protest.
“Threatening and political intimidation should not be part of the (campus) community,” Lewis said. “What I have seen and heard in response to the Berkeley College Republicans’ ‘Increase Diversity Bake Sale’ has been far from healthy disagreement or challenging of ideas.”
While enactment of SB 185 does not require university admissions officers to give preferential treatment to applicants on the basis of race or gender, it would allow them to consider such factors.
A statewide ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996 banned the use of race and gender preferences in state university admissions, hiring and contracting. The California Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality last August.
SB 185 was presented to Brown on September 9 and becomes law after 30 days unless he vetoes it.
Additional reporting by Greg Lucas in Sacramento; Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston