Thursday, September 21

Food for Thought

UC Berkeley's affirmative action bake sale, while insensitive, prompts a closer look on Senate Bill 185


Jessica Lee / Daily Bruin

“I was offended by a college bake sale.”

That sounds like a nonsensical reaction from a seemingly innocuous fundraiser, but when the purchaser’s race and gender determine pastry prices, innocuous becomes controversial.

On Tuesday, UC Berkeley’s Berkeley College Republicans held a bake sale with a race-based price tier. Whites, Asians, Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans paid $2, $1.50, $1, 75 cents and 25 cents, respectively, while women earned an additional 25-cent discount.

But after some indignant research, the prices were no longer opprobrious but logical and downright amusing. When seen for what it is, the sale ceases to be disrespectful: race-based affirmative action simplified into a bake sale. And while I don’t condone assigning a cupcake’s monetary worth to ethnicities, the discrimination parallels California Senate Bill 185.

Currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval or veto following its passage in the state legislature, SB 185 promotes race-based affirmative action.

“This bill would authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions,” SB 185 states.

SB 185 would overturn Proposition 209, a 1996 piece of legislation that deems university admission quotas illegal.

Much like lower costs make the pastries more obtainable, underrepresented minorities will find higher education more accessible in the effort to increase their presence on campus.

But SB 185 not only hurts the group it excludes but also the very group it intends to assist. Race-based admissions policies exemplify that underrepresented minorities are held to a lower standard, which implies they are not expected to achieve solely because of their ethnicities. This is backward-thinking and completely insulting.

Without exception, every student at UCLA deserves his or her spot; accepted students have successfully demonstrated they are bright, eager and full of potential. Implementing SB 185′s policies would discredit students, particularly underrepresented minorities on campus.

I do not want a campus culture where people misconstrue underrepresented minorities as needing charity in the form of acceptances from one of the nation’s best universities. That is not, and will never be, the case. Behind a facade of fostering equal opportunity, SB 185 would only reinforce negative stereotypes while encouraging racial discrimination by grouping ethnicities by academically and professionally developed and less developed.

If any non-meritocratic factor is indeed taken into account, an applicant’s socioeconomic status would be far more telling. Parental income, education and occupation determine a person’s socioeconomic status, and opportunities and disadvantages vary accordingly.

The American Psychological Association affirms the direct link between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Children growing up in families with low socioeconomic status are less exposed to growth-encouraging resources than children from families with high socioeconomic status. This gap could be attributed to factors as simple as the degree of parental involvement, or less time to devote to school and extracurricular activities because of an increase in familial responsibilities.

The Berkeley College Republicans’ bake sale thrusted a much avoided topic into a public forum. While the issue could have been addressed in a more sensitive manner, opponents to the bake sale have also reacted immaturely with belligerent threats. Regardless of your stance on this bake sale, you have to agree this issue would not have received national attention if it were politically correct. We should use this opportunity to cultivate open dialogue and search for innovative solutions ““ not waste sweet cupcakes by throwing them at each other. Let’s not undermine underrepresented minorities by giving people an excuse to credit their acceptance to their ethnicity.

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