Controversy is stirring at the University of California, Berkeley, after a Republican student group decided to hold a bake sale at which the prices were determined by the buyer’s race and sex.  The bake sale, intended to highlight the group’s disapproval or race and gender quotas through Affirmative Action, sparked fierce debate on the campus and has spread throughout the country.

The Berkeley College Republicans announced their bake sale last week, calling it an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale.”  The bake sale was planned as other students on campus were working to urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign a Senate bill allowing public universities to consider race, gender, and ethnicity during the admission process.  Affirmative action in admissions has been prohibited in California since the passing of Proposition 209 in 1996.

The term “affirmative action” was first used in EO 11246, issued by Lyndon Johnson. The Order called on federal government contractors and subcontractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” Johnson expanded the Executive Order in 1967 to protect women from discrimination as well.

Examining the Executive Order sheds light on the origins of affirmative action policies in the United States. The Order, for example, forbids “rigid and inflexible quotas” for minority employment, instead encouraging contractors to make “good faith efforts” to meet goals for the employment of minorities and women.

Affirmative action remains controversial not because there is widespread public sentiment in support of racial discrimination. In fact, notwithstanding the persistence of pockets of racism in the United States, the American public is highly critical of racial and ethnic intolerance and discrimination. Instead, the controversy about affirmative action centers on broad disagreement about the best way to fight discrimination in the present and to make amends for past discrimination.

The Berkeley College Republicans argue that affirmative action is racist and that it presumes that a minority applicant would not be able to get a job or into a school without affirmative action efforts by the admissions committee.  Those who oppose the BCR’s bake sale efforts feel that they are being racist and insensitive in their attempt at being “satirical.” What do you think about the Berkeley College Republicans’ bake sale?  Do you agree with their sentiments regarding Affirmative Action, or do you think that Affirmative Action is a critical part of equality in academic settings as well as the work place?

HR Unlimited firmly believes in the importance of Affirmative Action, and we work to ensure Equal Employment Opportunities for all.