Berkeley College Republican, Student President Debate “Diversity Bake Sale”
From The Daily Cal:
“Under the pricing structure, white students would have to pay $2.00 for a pastry, for example, while Latinos would pay $1.00 and Native Americans would pay $0.25. Women would receive a blanket 25 cent discount.”
This is not exactly cutting-edge political street theater, as noted in this Slate report called Happy Ninth Anniversary, College Republican Stunt!, which catalogs seven identical events at other universities since 2002. Nevertheless, people are upset, and the sale has generated an epic discussion on the message board of today’s “Forum” radio segment on the topic.
On that show, Michael Krasny talked to Andy Nevis, executive director of the Berkeley College Republicans, and Vishalli Loomba, president of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). Here’s the segment audio; an edited transcript follows the clip.
Andy Nevis, I know that from the group’s perspective, this is being touted as satiric and for publicity, and to highlight what your group thinks of as racism. But what about the fact that many, including the chancellor, say this is hurting people and causing a great deal of pain.
Andy Nevis, Exec. Dir. Berkeley College Republicans
Well I think that when you have any kind of free speech event, you have to do things that are going to warrant the attention. I’ve heard a lot of criticisms that we should have had a town hall or some discussion on this, but the fact is sometimes you have to have some kind of visual image to get people’s attention before you can have a good discussion on it.
We certainly don’t – actually we do intend to offend people, but we intend to offend people the same way they should be offended by race-based admissions. It’s discriminatory here, and it’s also discriminatory in that case. So we actually hope people will feel uncomfortable, because that’s our goal. That’s part of free speech, it isn’t always comfortable. But we don’t intend to threaten anybody, we don’t intend to make anybody feel unwelcome on campus. We are more than happy to discuss this issue with anyone who would like to. It’s all about starting a dialogue.
Your group has alleged threats as result of this bake sale?
We certainly don’t – actually we do intend to offend people, but we intend to offend people the same way they should be offended by race-based admissions.
Yes we’ve had a number of threats made against our organization, including sadly from other Berkeley students, who have said they’re going to come by and flip over the table, throw cupcakes at us. Just a lot of really disturbing things have been said about our organization so that’s really disappointing.
The chancellor said ‘freedom of speech is not properly exercised without taking responsibility for its impact.”
We’re trying to start a dialogue and I just don’t see how having a bake sale necessarily hurts other students; I would hope it would start a dialogue with them. It might make them feel uncomfortable, but that’s the whole point of free speech. If you can’t make people feel uncomfortable, than the whole notion of free speech is kind of worthless. The whole goal is to try to impart some kind of emotional response in the individuals who will see our bake sale.
Vishalli Loomba, president of the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley, which has already put out a statement that this is contrary to the principles of community. Let’s talk about why this isn’t just good dialogue or free speech…
Vishalli Loomba, president of the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley
I completely value the members of BCR for coming forward and wanting to express their opinions. We should be having constructive dialogue on the issue of SB 185 or any other legislation. But I think this tactic is not constructive and it’s creating a very divisive environment.I know Andy mentioned free speech has to make people uncomfortable in order to mean something. I don’t necessarily agree with that. When you’re creating a dialogue, something important to look at is when have you gone too far, when have you crossed the line.
When you’ve begun to compromise on respecting your peers and making them feel unwelcome and unwanted on their own campus, I think that’s taking it a little too far in the name of free speech.
When you’ve begun to compromise on respecting your peers and making them feel unwelcome and unwanted on their own campus, I think that’s taking it a little too far in the name of free speech. And you really need to think critically, if your intent is really just to educate other students on your opinion on the issue, there are much more constructive ways to do that.
So you’ve been hearing from a lot of students that they are hurt by this?
Yes right from the onset on Thursday night, when the event was posted, I’ve been hearing from many, many students from all sorts of campus communities who were very upset, who feel hurt and disrespected and unwelcome on campus.
You’ve talked about getting the sponsorship of the Republican club revoked, and they said you’ll find yourself in court if you do that, it’s unconstitutional. Is the Associated Students group planning on some kind of move toward revocation of their charter?
No I don’t’ think so. The senators met in a special meeting and discussed student group conduct in general, and discussed what the responsibilities of student groups should be toward the campus climate and the environment and respecting their peers and holding events. But I don’t think at this point there would be anything as drastic as removing funding.
Listen to the rest of the show, which consists of more debate and comments from listeners, here or below:
Update 3:50 p.m. KQED News Associate Oakland Local’s got an anti-bake sale op-ed up…Related