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The Berkeley Bake-sale Blues

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Sep 26, 2011

The world needs a Berkeley. From the Free Speech Movement (FSM) days of Mario Savio and many others, this Bay Area burg has been synonymous with Progressive politics. The campus was in the vanguard of the movement that peaked in the student-led anti-war protests of the early 1970s. And it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the FSM was demonstrating for such radical causes as a faculty free of "loyalty oaths" and on-campus political organizing by anyone other than the tidy Republican and Democratic student "clubs" of the day. That's pretty prosaic stuff, from this vantage. Besides, Berkeley also proclaims itself a Nuclear-Free Zone, and we'll all need a safe place to go in case the Unthinkable happens.

Those political clubs are back in the news, as the College Republicans have organized a "diversity bake sale" for this week. Different ethnicities are to pay various amounts for their pastries. Albeit derivative of an identical stunt pulled by Fox News' John Stossel last year in New York, this self-proclaimed satiric event has had the desired effect of re-igniting debate on Affirmative Action. Specifically, the junior GOP draws attention to a bill on Governor Brown's desk that would reinstate race/gender/ethnicity-conscious admissions in the UC and CSU systems.

The bill, SB 185 appears to conflict with Prop 209, the 1996 Constitutional initiative that forbids the use of such factors broadly in California public processes, including college admissions. The new measure purports to allow minority-conscious admissions to the maximum extent allowed by the 14th amendment. Those boundaries were recently established by a pair of University of Michigan cases, in which the US Supreme Court approved the "critical mass" approach of the law school, but disallowed "points" policies of the undergraduate college that were not sufficiently "narrowly tailored" to meet Equal Protection muster. Its supporters claim they have threaded the Constitutional needle on this difficult policy matter – if Governor Brown signs the measure, they will surely get a chance to test that theory in court.

Affirmative Action has always been a difficult concept for the American public to accept, in contrast, I believe, to the passive, "thou-shalt-not" commands of anti-discrimination laws. It creates identifiable winners and losers in its processes, and, by forcing the pace of a status-blind society, AA appears to simply turn the tables of discrimination, albeit narrowly and temporarily. Justice O'Connor, in her majority opinion in the Michigan Law case, expressed the hope that one day these policies might be unnecessary, and also the view that we're not there yet as a society.

So once again, we owe Berkeley the debt of consciousness-raising – this time from the conservative side of the aisle. SB 185 has flown under a lot of radar to its current position. This issue does deserve debate, and thanks to those stalwart College Republicans it's likely to receive it very soon. It may get a bit heated around here – fortunately, you can always head for those nuclear-free Berkeley bunkers.

Comments (14)

Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I think it is brilliant...just too bad there is need for such clarily to current UC practices ! ! UC violates prop 209 daily with their practices. Chancellor and Pres, Bergeneau and Yudof, openly preach that 'diversity' is 'their goal'. Funny, as a taxpayer, I thought it was to run the college in accordance with state laws, (of course they COULD reject our taxpayer funds, if they wish to work on their 'personal goals').
White males do not get equal consideration for admission, and next to no chance for financial aid (I don't care to hear how it USE to be, as in the song 'use to be's don't count anymore). We're talking 2011. But, those illustrous leaders "RECRUIT" minorities and pretty much provide free rides to boot. (& child care's included if needed).
So tomorrow the Cal Rep club is having a bake sale. So in keeping with the school's admission and tuition practices, Cookies will cost whites $2.00 each, Asians $1.75, Mex ?.75?, Blacks ?.50? ..paying a declining, but not certaiin on several.
Reading above, I'm really angered there is a bill to openly bring back legalized discrimination, which was outlawed with prop 209...about a dozen years, which overwhelmingly passed like 80% of voters...to require equal, fair treatment in all taxpayer institutions....no favorites, no preferences....like MLK said, stop treating people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, etc. etc EQUALITY. Why would anybody want blatent INequality, particularly in our public universities. White males virtually cannot get financial aid at Cal...they were all born rich you understand, so even if Dad's been unemployed....tough, there aren't enough seats ! ! The recent tuition INCREASES on the middle-class are to give greater aid to the lower. Rich don't sweat it either way, they'll go. Aid to Call stops at $80k for white males...(they create 'exceptions' for minorities). They consider stories of "community" activities, so admissions has free reign with their "SUBJECTIVE" evaluations.
It will probably be taken back to court. Either it's OK to to have different people payout different amounts, or it's NOT.
SEATS are limited, it is a shame that some are 'encouraged' if not pushed into professions, when they would be more suited to much needed trades....MEANWHILE, the seats are 'gone' with some who won't finsh, while others who would finish are turned away...although they would be paying a higher tuition. I'll stand and speak for EQUALITY for all...equal evaluations, equal costs, like is required by prop 209.


Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Actually, If the Governor signs 185, it would be cause for RECALL ! I believe a proposition that was voted in with something like 80% voter approval, cannot be overturned. If Brown was to move away from
equality, to manipulated, convoluted, inequality, he would cause quite a revolt, and create an easy recall.
The 'people' voted, the law stands. Somebody better send him the message, his days would be numbered.


Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm

The richest woman in America became rich in America, being black. We elected a black President. I've been thinking it was time for one of them to drop the hyphenated affectation, and hopefully minorities would be sufficiently proud to call themselves 'Americans'. They need to remove the self-imposed wall. After generations being born in America, it seems it's time they would want to 'BE' Americans. Maybe the 'special' aids and preferences bestowed on some from social engineers at the likes of Cal, is a 'drug' that's hard to give up. But when it's at the expense of white males, whose families are suffering at this moment in history, resentment and rage is building. It's time to demand equality. So we don't have to fight these battles over again, I think it is time to honor 'equality'. 209 is law... preferences are suppose to be illegal in our taxpayer public institutions. I would love to see Yudoff and Bergineau fired for violating our laws.


Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:15 am

If Brown returns us to discriminatory practices, by showing favoritism for some, it's time for some honesty. Whites are already in the minority in CA. Mexians are majority. Do you think the 'charts' will suddenly make whites the preferred minority, gaining the preferred admissions, benefits. NO, YOUR kids and Grandkids will be stepping aside, yet paying more. Preferences are wrong and immoral.
Speak up for equal treatment. stop 185, 3 days left for him to sign it into law....breaking the Constitutional law created when a huge majority in CA that spoke to stop preferences.
What is the old saying "if not now when?" " If not you, who will speak". Speak for equal treatment. This is 2011...open your eyes,stop living in the past.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:29 am

Thanks for your thoughts =FA; this one seems to have struck a nerve.
First, just a point of information: Prop 209 passed with a 54% to 46% vote total, not 80-20 (per Wikipedia, anyway). Public opinion is much more evenly divided than you suggest, or was in 1996.

That said, is there Any background factor to which you'd give credence in your admissions processes? Would achievement despite obstacles like a physical disability, or severe poverty make a difference? And what about peculiar achievements -- an Olympic Gold (in a sport that UC doesn't do -- snowboarding?) or maybe a chess championship, say?

The Michigan Law case takes a different tack, on which I'm sure someone will correct me if there's disagreement with my take on it. Their approach was to say that everyone's education benefits if we have a variety of viewpoints and life experiences among our students. So, they aimed to have a "critical mass" of differences among their students -- no hard goals, and variation year-to-year. Race is one -- among many -- factors they use to ensure variety.

The Supremes, possibly influenced by "amicus" briefs representing hundreds of large corporations who also seek that variety among their employees, validated their approach.

As to your melting pot point last above, what about a salad bowl metaphor, instead? I kinda like St Patty's Day (although I loathe Notre Dame), Chinese New Year and Italian Heritage night at the ballgame -- why is difference considered a negative?


Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm

A salad bowl is great.....as long as all admission 'standards' are EQUAL. Why would you be for UNequal 'treatment' for your family?
As an American, my family should be allowed equal consideration and treatment.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Sep 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Howsabout this: if you had a standard-issue Danville kid, stable home, two parents, all the comforts, etc., and a blind orphan from the Projects -- and they both had otherwise identical credentials, do you flip a coin?


Posted by Improper Hypothetical, a resident of Danville
on Sep 28, 2011 at 7:17 am

It is funny when an old white guy thinks he is liberal and progressive and hip, but is actually so out of date and uneducated that he uses inappropriate racist terms. "The Projects" is an outdated and inappropriate term with racial implications. The correct, non-racist, appropriate term is "community housing", such as the old Cabrini Green complex in Chicago...Putting aside your uneducated and inappropriate language, from a pure legal stand point, as long as the decision made is not based on a protected class, i.e., race, religion, national origin,gender, sexual preference, there is no constitutional violation in basing the decision on something not subject to a protected class...For example, wealth or poverty is not a protected class, so if a college has two even students but one overcame the odds of growing up in poverty and the other was well to do, choosing the poor student is not illegal....But if the decision is based on race, considering a student's race in admissions, there is a constitutional violation as there is discrimination based on a protected class..."Equality for all" makes some very good, logical points...We could learn a lot more from having "Equality for all" writing a weekly blog, rather than the confused and misguided ramblings of Mr. Cushing.


Posted by Alan, a resident of Blackhawk
on Sep 28, 2011 at 7:50 am

Yes, TC, you flip a coin! BTW the Danville kid would be paying his/her own way and not expect a handout from the taxpayers.


Posted by Stop Promoting Class/Racial divisiveness, a resident of Diablo
on Sep 28, 2011 at 8:37 am

Allowing race to be a factor in the conferring of government benefits is not the same as considering objective achievements, Tom, like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. And if race is allowed to be used in admissions at Cal, it will hurt not only whites (who by the way are in the minority of admits at Cal), but also groups that have suffered race-based discrimination in California in the past---such as Asian-Americans, who currently are the largest racial group at Cal.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2011 at 7:29 am

Where would this board be without the hostility and presumptuousness of those who can lob their semi-solids anonymously? I chose this gig, obviously (is gig an educated word? Is it pseudo-hip? So many decisions, so few editors), but I must say the vitriol and condescension can be tedious. I plead guilty to my age, which is blessedly younger than I thought it'd be before I got here. Perhaps others will be so lucky.

I set up that hypo to see if anyone feels like factors other than raw academics, like obstacles Or achievements, might play a role in admissions. It did not state race or gender of either candidate. One commenter added that factor to set up his own straw man; Alan would flip a coin.

I wouldn't – I'd take the blind orphan. Back when I was even younger (yes, and liberal and pseudo-hip, only worse), I struck my campus to promote minority admissions, alongside kids from Cabrini-Green (now gone) and many, many others. It worked. I think it was worth doing then, and I still do – I'm okay standing with former Justice O'Connor's position on the law, and most of the Fortune 500 companies who supported that general concept in the Grutter case. I am optimist enough to also hope, with her, that this stuff is transitional, and that someday the obstacles won't include race or gender, etc. And then I'll still take the blind orphan or chess champ.

More broadly, I'm fond of the saying "the fish is the last one to know he's in the water." None of us fully recognize how well the system works for we who call it home. There's a whole lot of fish around here, methinks.


Posted by Stop Promoting Class/Racial divisiveness, a resident of Diablo
on Sep 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

Government should not favor some individuals over others merely because of their racial/ethnic status. In most cases, justifying the awarding of a government benefit on "overcoming obstacles" is merely a mask for the true reason behind such a decision---race/ethinic status. How about the obstacles faced by a rich, white, male child whose parent ignore him because they are too busy traveling, attending parties, etc., and when they do pay attention have nothing but negative criticism for him because they feel he won't measure up to their standards? Is a poor black child whose parents are very nurturing and supportive of his achievements actually facing more "obstacles" to achievement than that white boy? The point is, any time you start talking about "obstacles" you make subjective judgements that are inherently going to be unfair, and create the likelihood that such judgements will merely be masks for racial and ethnic discrimination.


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Oct 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Of course in a fair society absolute color-blindness would be the rule and there would be no affirmative action required. But I can't help but wonder what the people who are so irate about reverse discrimination now said or would have said when direct discrimination was rampant in our society. Were they, or their parents or grandparents, irate then? Probably not. Nothing is more outrageous than any cost or inconvenience to the privileged and affluent.


Posted by Equality for all, a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

So Jerry signs to Dream Act, giving ILLEGALS the right to PUBLIC TAXPAYER FINANCIAL AID (they could already get private college aid).
So aside from filling the shortage of seats available (turning away white males), now they get the financial assistance that would be available to white males.,..,if white males were treated with equality.
I'm going to advise the teenage white males in my family, go protest like the third-worlders are teaching us.....now we have discrimination in both admittance and rare public aid dollars.....so not fair... time to show the rage.;;fight discrimination.


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