Republican students at the University of California at Berkeley are holding a rather special bake sale today. They are using the sale as a satirical protest against new legislation in California that gives universities the option to consider race, gender and nationality as factors in their admissions process. Baked goods will be sold at different prices depending on race: highest prices for whites, and lowest for Native Americans, with a further discount to women.
To me, this seems like rather a clever way to make a point. Yet there is a huge uproar about it. Apparently the Berkeley student body president, Vishalli Loomba, is having a hard time accepting the atmosphere of free, and often subversive thought and expression that makes campus life vibrant:
You can’t justify doing something this offensive and making students of this school feel uncomfortable.
Seriously? Would she feel better if every potentially controversial event was passed through her office to make sure that it wouldn’t offend anyone? On a university campus?
More importantly, those who are protesting the bake sale are clearly missing the point when they decry it as racist: the organizers (the Berkeley College Republicans) are quite obviously not supporting racism. Indeed, the very point of the sale is to demonstrate that affirmative action is essentially racist, and therefore repugnant. (At least the Berkeley College Republicans see it that way – I’m not personally convinced.)
Everyone would do well to quit getting in such a flap about what is a peaceful, rather cleverly chosen form of protest, even if they disagree with its premises or not. That’s one of the things university campuses are for.