Hundreds of students packed UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza on Tuesday to express their views on the use of race and gender in university admissions decisions and to weigh in on the tone of debate.Siesta time!
The dialogue in the bastion of the free-speech movement was triggered by a bake sale -- sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans -- that promised goods priced according to the buyer's race, ethnicity and gender.
The event, which was met with anger by many students, was timed to counteract a phone bank in support of a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that would allow the UC and Cal State University systems to consider such factors, as long as no preference is given.
Opponents of the legislation formed a protective wall of sorts around the Republican student club's bake sale table in the plaza. Under the event's pricing structure, whites were supposed to pay $2 for the same pastry that would cost Native Americans just 25 cents. (The group, however, accepted whatever people chose to pay.)
"It's kind of ugly," said 21-year-old gender and women's studies major Tatianna Peck, who held a sign protesting the exclusion of "queer people" from the Republicans' pricing structure.
"It's extremely reductive and forcing people into a defensive position instead of an honest place of listening," she said of the bake sale stunt. "It's just kind of a shame."
Some protesters gave out cupcakes in hopes of creating "an environment where people can come have dialogue with respect and sensitivity," said Damaris Olaechea, 24. The anthropology and rhetoric major said she, along with her roommate, baked hundreds of "cupcakes of conscience" to hand out in that spirit.
Several hundred students -- many of them African American or Latino -- dressed in black and staged a silent protest, lying down for an hour in the midday sun.
It's just so easy to rile up Berkeley kids. Like taking candy from whiny babies.