The College Republicans wanted to make a point with their affirmative action bake sale. And as fate would have it, the table they were assigned was next to the table of the Grassroots group. The cookies they were selling for different prices depending on the race, religion and gender of the buyer made a sharp contrast to the racks of old clothes set up to be exchanged a few feet away. But despite the potentially loaded situation, the College Republicans made their protest without serious disturbances. “We’ve been called a few names, one guy called us racist, but that was it,” senior Noah Kuschel said. Kuschel was one of about ten members of the College Republicans participating in the event. Chairman of the College Republicans and sophomore Noah Lebowitz agreed that the bake sale went well. “I’m really happy with how it went,” he said. “The response was mostly positive, and those who disagreed with us were willing to talk.”The College Republicans held the bake sale to argue that affirmative action is immoral. “If it offends you when we do this with cookies, how do you feel when schools do this with education?” Lebowitz asked. In addition to cookies like Oreos, Mrs. Field’s cookies and moon pies, the group had a flier with excerpts from “Affirmative Action Can’t Be Mended,” by Walter Williams, listing problems with affirmative action. “Between UCLA and Berkley, more than 2,000 white and Asian straight A students are turned away in order to provide spaces for black and Hispanic students,” it said.”[Affirmative action] is unfair and misrepresents the majority,” freshman Laura Gift said. “If everyone is equal, why do we give preferences to minorities?” Lebowitz said, “Affirmative action is a racist policy that hurts both the minorities it’s trying to help as well as students of all backgrounds.””Our goal is a race-blind admissions policy that does not discriminate against any groups based on race,” he said.”Affirmative action hurts minorities because they have no choice in the matter, so they get here [and] people assume they got here because of affirmative action and that creates a stigma,” Lebowitz said. “If you ask most minority students, they’d say they don’t want it but they don’t have a choice – they have to put down their race.”Many people who saw the bake sale disagreed with its message. “It’s easy to make martyrs out of both sides, but the question is, is it wrong to help poor people?” senior Jeffrey Sachs asked. Junior Camar Robinson was one student who disagreed with the arguments the Republicans were making. “I think the essential problem is not affirmative action, not whether I check a box on an application to indicate my race – the essential problem is race,” he said. “There is too little dialogue in our classrooms, communities and between communities about race and the impact of race in our communities.”Political Manager of the Spanish and Latino Students’ Association Sonia Pinzon, sophomore, felt the protest implied that minority students who benefited from affirmative action were less qualified than those who hadn’t. “I don’t think I’m less qualified to be here than anyone else. We all worked hard,” she said. “I know I’m not failing out of school right now.”President of the Black Students’ Union Lashara Evans, junior, believed that affirmative action is necessary despite its problems. “Although it is 2004, there still remains some bias towards certain groups,” she said. “Affirmative action ensures that people who would not usually get an equal chance do get that chance.”Senior and Grassroots member Audrey Stewart also had problems with the bake sale. “I think the event is important because it inspires debate, but the concept is ill-conceived and incomplete,” Stewart said. “I think affirmative action is an issue that needs to be examined and I respect the Republicans for their willingness to start a dialogue,” she continued. “However, what they suggest is to completely abolish affirmative action in colleges without proposing a viable alternative. They aren’t proposing viable alternatives.”Associate Dean of Students in charge of discipline Matt Burns was not at the event himself, but as far as he could tell he didn’t agree with it. “From what I know of the event, I can’t see myself ever standing behind something like it,” he said. “But I would certainly defend their right to speak their minds on this campus.”Dean of The College William Green also disagreed with the principle of the bake sale. “The expression of diverse opinions is basic to any educational institution of quality, and that is why the university values freedom of speech and expression as a basic principle,” he said. “On the basis of that principle, the College Republicans conducted their bake sale. However, their protest is misguided here.” Some of the College Republicans said that affirmative action would be acceptable if it wasn’t based on race. When asked his opinion of making it based on income level, Kuschel said, “I don’t think it’s unconstitutional. I would not be radically opposed to it.”The College Republicans said that minority and low-income education could be better helped by a voucher system than by affirmative action. “I think a voucher system could be designed at the federal level and implicated at the state level but with federal funds – a carrot instead of a stick,” Kuschel said. Stewart denied purchasing anything at the bake sale. “Of course not,” she joked. “I don’t buy corporate products!” Levesque can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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