At first glance, students walking past the Cardinal Conservatives’ bake sale in Usdan on Tuesday might not have thought there was anything unusual about their table, covered with rows of cookies and brownies. Upon closer inspection, though, they would have noticed that the Affirmative Action Bake Sale sold its products on a sliding cost scale depending on the customer’s race, ranging from free for Native American students to $2 for white students. The Cardinal Conservatives held a student forum the following day, while discussion of the bake sale heated up around campus.
“The point of the bake sale was political satire, to draw attention to our message and to start those conversations, creating a dialogue,” said Tori Rowe ’13, who founded the Cardinal Conservatives group earlier this year. “We believe that if you only have one side, you aren’t actually having a dialogue.”
Nonetheless, many students said that they were offended by the event’s message. Jessica Bowen ’11, who is currently writing her senior thesis on affirmative action in France, said that she was shaking with anger when she came upon the bake sale during lunch.
“I feel bad for the freshman students of color who see that and are thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, people are looking at me,’” Bowen said. “It’s one thing to have an internal struggle but it’s another to feel like it’s coming at you from all sides. I’m not saying they can’t have different views, but I’m asking, why are they bringing up an issue that offends so many people of color on campus?”
Rowe said that the prices of the baked goods were based on admissions data from the University website, and corresponded to the current demographics of the school. Cookies cost $2.00 for white students, $1.50 for Asians and Asian Americans, $1.00 for Latinos and Hispanics, $.75 for blacks and African Americans, and were free for Native Americans.
The bake sale is the Cardinal Conservatives’ first event. The group is focused on political discussion on campus, in contrast to the College Republicans, who focus on campaign activities.
“We did this [bake sale] because we want to have a discussion and there were handfuls of folks who agreed with us,” said Rowe. “There were quite a few students who came up and disagreed with us, but we had conversations. We believe that we have the right to say what we think even if it it’s not popular.”
Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon said that she believes a bake sale was not the best outlet to begin the discussion.
“I don’t see bake sales as a means of protest,” Mañjon said. “I think if they were trying to make a point maybe they needed to do a little more research first. I like the fact that students are politically aware on this campus, but I think when it comes to issues that are so controversial, those types of issues are better done in a forum.”
Similar affirmative action bake sales have been held at universities across the country, including William and Mary College, UCLA, Purdue University, and Bucknell University, where administrators shut down the event.
Rowe said that the group wants to emphasize the satirical nature of the protest.
“When we made the poster [for the bake sale] we put a big extra poster beside it that said ‘This is a Satirical Political Protest’ because the point of having this is that we believe affirmative action perpetuates racism,” said Rowe.
However, Bowen said that the label explaining the group’s declaration of satirical intent did not affect her perception of the event.
“There’s this idea of satire as we can do anything we want and call it satire, and even if it’s incredibly offensive, they can say ‘Where is your sense of humor?’” said Bowen.
Students who were offended by the bake sale are holding a meeting in Usdan 108 tonight at 5:00 p.m.