Cupcakes, cookies and race-conscious admissions

Earlier today, I was making fun of the Berkeley College Republicans on Twitter:

“I’m surprised college Republican groups are still doing the pay by race bake sale thing. That’s so 2000. I think they’d be more original.”

A few minutes later I added a link to the cartoon Lalo Alcaraz (above) published after the UCLA Bruin Republicans held a pay by race bake sale in 2003. I’m not sure you can actually call it a bake sale since they sold Oreos, Twinkies and crackers. Heavy handed with the symbolism much? Fellow UCLA alumni told me the bake sale was also done in the mid 1990s.

I wasn’t offended by the bake sale. Instead, I was surprised they were getting so much attention. Must be a slow news week, huh? Plus, these students could barely read when race conscious admissions were banned in 1995 and 1996 (first by the Regents of the University of California and then by the California electorate). SP-1 and Proposition 209 probably mean nothing to today’s freshman, born in 1993. My politics and education were shaped by those policies.

In the spring of 1998, I was part of the first class admitted under the new race-neutral admissions policies at the University of California. As I made my decision about which UC campus to attend, Berkeley or Los Angeles, I read about the severe drop (up to 50% for some groups at UC Berkeley and UCLA) in the LA Times. I didn’t get in to UC San Diego and wondered if I would have been admitted to San Diego under the old policies. When I toured UCLA and Berkeley with my parents, I noticed students protesting the effects of Proposition 209, a severe drop in the numbers of underrepresented minorities admitted. In the fall when I began classes at UCLA, I was well aware that my freshman class was much less black, Latino and American Indian than previous classes.

In the next few years, I got involved with student groups actively working on diversity issues and admissions reform. I continued my involvement as a doctoral student in higher education. I spent a couple of years on the board of the UC Student Association and lobbied California legislators on bills related to higher education access and affordability. I researched and wrote about admissions practices at UC campuses, attended weekly meetings of black alumni and community leaders pressing for admissions reform at UCLA, and was the graduate student representative on the systemwide Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. I was definitely plugged in to admissions and diversity issues at UC.

Yet despite my years of activism, research, and lobbying, I hadn’t heard about SB 185. The bill, introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez would allow California’s public universities “to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions.” (Source)

I’m thankful the Berkeley Republicans recycled the bake sale. If not for them, I’d still be out of the loop. Now I can email Governor Jerry Brown encouraging him to sign SB 185 and encourage my friends to do the same.

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