Berkeley Hosts Affirmative Action Bake-Off
By KATY GRIMES
Despite a constitutional amendment that prohibits the government from granting educational or employment preferences to individuals based on race, the California Legislature recently passed a bill to require state colleges and universities to use race in admissions policies.
Despite taking an oath to uphold the state’s constitution, the bill’s constitutionality appears irrelevant to state legislators.
With SB 185 on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature or veto, and many believing that politics will outweigh legalities, a group of college students decided to challenge the controversial bill in an unforgetable manner.
The always divergent and newsworthy University of California, Berkeley made headlines once again over controversial behavior by its students and administration. The most recent kerfuffle took place Tuesday at a campus bake sale, where disputes over affirmative action, charges of elitism and First Amendment violations took place.
The college Republican organization at the Berkeley campus organized an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” for today. Female, Asian, Spanish-American and African-American students would be charged less than white males for the cupcakes. The bake sale was intended to satirically protest SB 185.
The constitutional amendment was upheld in a 6-1 ruling of the California Supreme Court in August 2010. The court ruled that Proposition 209 does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
American Civil Rights Institute founder Ward Connerly, co-author of Prop 209, said that SB 185 was a “priority of the legislative Latino caucus. And the Latino caucus is the 800-pound elephant in the room,” having passed several educational preference bills this year.
Connerly said that SB 185 was shoved through the Legislature quickly, even after two previous attempts to pass nearly identical bills were vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite Schwarzenegger’s veto messages that the bills were unconstitutional, Connerly said that Democrats figured that if they could get the bill to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk quickly, he would sign it.
During committee hearings for SB 185, Connerly said that several opponents brought up that the bill was actually unconstitutional since it contradicts the California Constitution. “The attitude by the bill’s author was ‘we’ll just let the Supreme Court handle it again,’” Connerly said, “despite affirmative action already having been legally ruled upon by the top court in the state.”
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
After announcing the bake sale on Facebook last week, the college Republicans ironically were excluded from the Friday night town hall meeting of UC Berkeley students “seeking to promote multiculturalism and open dialogue,” and despite the multicultural center bylaws requiring that “events must be open to the entire campus community.”
The Facebook invitation read:
Berkeley College Republicans will be SELLING BAKED GOODS from 10 AM – 2PM across from the Affirmative Action Phonebank on Upper Sproul, and just like the CA Senate Bills 185 and 387 the phonebank supports, we will be considering RACE, GENDER, ETHNICITY, NATIONAL/GEOGRAPHIC ORIGIN and other relevant factors to ensure the EQUITABLE distribution of BAKED GOODS to our DIVERSE! student body.To ensure the fairest distribution, and make sure that there are a DIVERSE population of RACES of students getting BCR’s delicious baked goods, the pricing structure will be as follows:
Asian/Asian American: $1.50
Black/ African American: $0.75
Native American: $0.25
$0.25 OFF FOR ALL WOMEN!
Hope to see you all there! If you don’t come, you’re a racist!
Andy Nevis, one of the College Republicans who planned the bake sale, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the bake sale planned a sliding price scale, with students being charged based on their race and sex, the same way that California universities and colleges manage admissions policies.
It is surprising that SB 185 passed both houses of the Legislature, despite the many attorneys currently holding elected office in the Legislature, and despite that Brown was the state attorney general before being elected Governor.
Why would a state senator introduce legislation to authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions?
Connerly said that he is baffled: “It just doesn’t make sense to make race-based decisions. We spend a lot of money as taxpayers at UC and CSU. We shouldn’t just give students their right to go there because of their skin color or their ethnic background.”
Connerly attended the Berkeley bake sale, even knowing that the event could get ugly. He had heard that protestors would use “any means necessary” to make their points in opposition to the anti-affirmative action bake sale. However, Connerly said he was glad he was there to support the students.
In order to understand Connerly’s position, it is important to know that Ward Connerly, according to Wikipedia, is “one-fourth black and half-white, with the rest a mix of Irish, French, and Choctaw American Indian. He identifies as multiracial.”
He has made it his mission to affect cultural change by challenging the “race matters” mentality embraced by many of today’s so-called “civil rights leaders.” Connerly believes that civil rights are individual rights and that government policies should not advocate group rights over individual rights.
The bill’s author, Hernandez, a member of the Latino Caucus, introduced the legislation with the intent “to bring admissions practices in California’s higher education system in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent that allows public universities and colleges to consider race in their outreach and retention programs.”
“Proposition 209 was so far-reaching that even targeted outreach programs to attract and retain qualified minority applicants are not allowed,” said Hernandez on his Senate website. “It is time California adopt the law of the land and eliminate policies that discourage college-eligible students from pursuing a higher education.”
Hernandez referred to new eligibility requirements and admissions initiatives in CSU and UC, and said they have helped restore the numbers of some underrepresented student populations to levels that existed before the passage of Proposition 209.
Connerly, a former UC Regent, said the UC Regents adopted a Comprehensive Review process in 2001, which means that students can be evaluated on a range of factors including socioeconomics, high school attended and ranking in graduating class. “All combined, the 14 factors used were designed to increase the enrollment of blacks and Latinos,” Connerly said. “But not at levels administrators wanted.”
Hernandez has stressed that his intent with this legislation is not to have universities implement quota or preferential admissions systems, but to consider race in their outreach and retention efforts for targeting qualified students from these underrepresented groups.
But the cause of underrepresentation is where Connerly vehemently disagrees with overreaching state educational manipulations. “There is a profound academic gap between black and Latino, and white and Asian students,” Connerly said. “But affirmative action will not do anything to make black and Latino students more competitive.”
Connerly said that one of the underreported factors is that historically black colleges and universities “get the first bite of the apple,” and pick off the top black high school students. “Lots of black parents want their kids to go to all-black colleges and universities,” Connerly said. But that is never factored into California’s race-based educational statistics.
Hernandez has likened affirmative action in education to health care. “I see this bill as a way to expand our workforce and strengthen our communities here in California,” he said. “Health care is a great example. We have a very real shortage of health care providers, at all levels, and the problem is especially acute in communities of color. If we recruit qualified students from these communities to pursue a higher education, they are more likely than anyone else to return to those communities to pursue a job or setup practice after they graduate. It is time to stop tying the hands of our public universities and allow them to extend these same opportunities to all qualified Californians.”
The key word is “qualified,” according to Connerly. “There just aren’t enough qualified black and Latino students to compete.”
And manipulating the numbers does not change the facts. Connerly has been critical of the less rigorous UC admissions policies as well, which he said aim to “expand the pool of applicants to include more minority students.”
Instead of focusing on quality of education and preparedness, California schools appear to be increasing the numbers of college students instead by expanding the pool of minority students.
Tuesday, the Daily Californian kept a running blog during the Berkeley bake sale and wrote, “UC Berkeley Professor of political science Wendy Brown tried to buy all the baked goods at the Republicans’ sale, but they did not allow her to do so. ‘I thought the Republicans were free enterprise, but they won’t let me buy all the cupcakes,’ she said.”
Despite the human barrier of protestors around the back of the bake sale table, the college Republicans’ baked goodies sold out.
Connerly said it was actually a good day after all at the Berkeley campus: “It’s odd. Really odd. But I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of kids in my life. There were black kids, Chinese kids arguing in favor of doing away with race-based preferences and civil rights for everyone.”
Support for the bill comes from the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the California Commission on the Status of Women; the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the California State Student Association; the Equal Justice Society; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the National Association of Social Workers and the Greenlining Institute
Opposition to SB 185 came from the American Civil Rights Coalition and the California Association of Scholars.
Tags: ACRI, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California budget, California Legislature, Democrats, Education, government, Jerry Brown, Katy Grimes, legislature, Public Employee Unions, Sacramento, Taxes, Ward Connerly, waste
May 24, 2013