On Friday, students packed the Usdan University Center, rallying from the tops of tables, passing out flyers, and inviting passers-by into their discussion.

The demonstration was a response to the Cardinal Conservatives’ anti-affirmative action bake sale that took place earlier last week. For an hour and a half during lunch, students donning the school’s red and black colors gathered in the  center of Usdan. Later that evening, over 100 people packed Usdan Room 108 for a forum about the effect of the bake sale on the Wesleyan community and whether there could have been better ways for the Cardinal Conservatives to express their views.

The rally was organized by a group of concerned students in response to the bake sale, where baked goods were priced differently based on the purchaser’s ethnicity. At the event, students passed out fliers regarding myths associated with affirmative action. Several students stood on tables and made statements.

“Most of the messages were about how the bake sale had made people uncomfortable and violated their safe spaces, as well as about trying to have unity across campus,” said Nick Petrie ’12, a member of Wesleyan Diversity Education Facilitators (WesDEFs).

The central location of the rally, like that of the bake sale, encouraged interactions with passersby. According to Petrie, the intent of the rally was more complex than simply presenting an opposing viewpoint to that of the Cardinal Conservatives.

“The rally I think was a little confusing to people sometimes because the response is not actually pro-affirmative action,” Petrie said. “The response was more about the way in which the Cardinal Conservatives represented affirmative action through the bake sale, which was misleading, and that they were creating a straw man and then framing the debate to fight that straw man that doesn’t actually exist—partly because affirmative action isn’t practiced as such at Wesleyan and partly because that type of affirmative action [involving racial quotas] is outlawed everywhere now.”

The forum was facilitated by Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon and Dean for Diversity and Student Engagement Renee Johnson-Thornton. Several professors and representatives from the Office of Admissions also attended. Two Cardinal Conservative members, Aileen Yeung ’14, the president of the group, and Tori Rowe ’13, spoke about the group’s reasoning and intentions for holding the satirical bake sale.

During the forum, participants challenged the extent to which the Cardinal Conservatives had sufficiently researched the topic before organizing the bake sale, asking why Rowe and Yeung did not meet with Mañjon or representatives from Admissions to discuss the actual policies in place at the University.

“I feel like before they did something like that they should have not only spoken to Admissions about what their policies were but also researched the history of affirmative action, what states practice it, how it’s practiced, and who are the biggest benefactors—and it happens to be white women,” said Teju Adisa-Farrar ’13. “And I don’t think they focused on that—they racialized it and I think that was what was inappropriate about it.”

During the forum, some students expressed confusion about the interpretation of Wesleyan’s “Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Statement,” which applies specifically to hiring faculty, administration, and staff, and suggested clarifying it on the website. Wesleyan has a diversity policy relating to student admissions, but not an affirmative action program for students.

Other topics discussed during the forum included the degree to which racial oppression and discrimination are still present in the United States, the methods and problems involved with judging qualifications for college admission, and how socioeconomic and other factors can influence performance on test scores and other standards for measuring merit.

Some participants in the discussion, including Assistant Professor of Government Elvin Lim, argued that the bake sale would have been more effective and less offensive if it had taken into account other factors that can affect admissions decisions, such as legacy, athletics, and geographic location.

Rowe and Yeung defended their decision to hold the bake sale, and argued that Affirmative Action is a discriminatory practice that hinders the admission of the most qualified students.

“I fear that our bake sale and, more importantly, our message have been distorted through the grapevine,” wrote Yeung in an e-mail to The Argus. “During the forum, it was evident that our most vocal critics were neither the ones who stopped by the bake sale to engage us in conversation, nor those who attended the meeting we held the following evening to debrief the bake sale.”

Rowe and Yeung responded to questions about the way they initiated the discussion by stating that they had handed out fliers during the bake sale advertising their own forum that they held the following day. However, several students who showed up at this event said that it was actually a Cardinal Conservatives meeting, and that they had been turned away when they tried to attend.

“I think they did try [to host their own forum], but since they weren’t really prepared for students to actually come, sit down, and talk with them, it ended up just being a meeting, and that kind of propelled people to not feel comfortable going or speaking,” Adisa-Farrar said.

Numerous students expressed satisfaction with how Friday’s forum promoted face-to-face discussion of different viewpoints.

“I was really excited to see a lot of people come up, because the goal of this was a discussion and I’m glad to know that that happened,” said Marsha Jean-Charles ’11, who introduced the forum and led the group’s discussion of its goals for the meeting. “I think a lot of us are really happy with the way it turned out.”

However, some concern was expressed about the degree to which the forum ended up being an attack against or trial of the two Cardinal Conservative representatives.

“I feel like the Cardinal Conservatives felt attacked, even though our intention was not to marginalize them,” Adisa-Farrar said. “There were only a few of them and their responses weren’t as strong as maybe some of the other people who shared during the forum.”

The Cardinal Conservative representatives were asked to acknowledge the hurt and disruptions they had caused numerous students. While Rowe and Yeung said that they never intended to offend people, they did not back down from their decision to hold the bake sale.

“We’re not going to apologize for what we did,” Rowe said. “We still oppose affirmative action.”

  • timbo

    affirmative action makes your achievement useless.

  • Anonymous

    If grades and SAT scores were the sole basis of admissions at Harvard then 70-80 % of the freshman class of Harvard will disappear, that would also be true of a school like Wellesley. Achievement has nothing to do with a a private school like Wellesley. If grades and SAT scores were the sole basis of admissions to UM- Amherst then only 20 % OF ITS FRESHMAN CLASS WILL DISAPPEAR.Why ? because of the vast system of preferences in private schools like Wellesley and Harvard. Preferences of which are innumerable from alumni legacies, for the children of the wealthy and famous,for development cases , for the children of the faculty and administrators, race, geographical etc. If all these preferences were abolished then 80% of the freshman class at Harvard will disappear…. ditto…. Harvard will lose money and close down…LOL. There is enormous hypocrisy on both sides of this question at Wellesley on the part of the faculty and students. Everyone should denounce every kind of preference from legacy, development cases, race, athletics (all of the athletes at Harvard are white anyway),geographical etc. They even try to justify these kind of preferences with every kind of garbage from doing volunteer work, being a poet, being a violin player etc. For start , faculty and students of Wellesley should denounce alumni legacy , race and every kind of preference

  • Anonymous

    The writer of the 2nd comment is named Leo Cruz

    from the author of the 2nd comment

  • Anonymous

    The only way to deal with the vast system of preferences at private schools like Harvard and Wellesley is to deny them every cent of public levy tax money be it for research or student loans. And you can tell this to Roger Clegg. Alumni preferences are wrong just like race preferences. Why doesn’t Roger Clegg and LInda Chavez and their ilk call for the immediate cutoff of federal money be it for research or student loans to private schools like Harvard and Wellesley that practice alumni legacy preferences,faculty children preferences, development cases preferences, athletic preferences etc. People of the sort of Clegg and Chavez are just as disgusting as the NAACP and Sharpton. They are 2 sides of the of the same coin. I guess if Wellesley will ban preferences of every kind, then it will lose money and professors like Elvin Lim will lose their job huh?

    Leo Cruz

  • Alumni

    Leo, you know you’re making yourself sound pretty silly by making up numbers, right? I’d like to see any sources for what ‘facts’ you just dug up. Also, you mentioned wellesley. I was hoping that you realized that this was at wesleyan…

    It also strikes me as surprising that you’re just blatantly making up ‘facts’. Here’s an article from Harvard that came up when I googled ‘harvard athletes’ : http://www.gocrimson.com/sports/mbkb/2010-11/releases/20101128_Colorado_Recap

    I saw atleast 2 black athletes mentioned on the main site and then this article. I bet there’s a pretty diverse group of athletes there just as there are students, but what do I know. I just actually checked for facts before making them up…

  • Anonymous


    I know my facts, at Harvard, recipients of athletic preferences are overwhelmingly white. Try looking at the roster of the crew, hockey, fencing, wrestling, football , golf , tennis, swimming,diving etc.teams at Harvard and other private schools and you will find them overwhelmingly white, rarely any black person . There may be an occasional black or Asian like Jeremy Lin in the Harvard basketball team ,but virtually everyone who is admitted as an athletic preference at Harvard and other Ivy schools are overwhelmingly white . Even here at UCLA ,the basketball, football and track and field teams are has many blacks , but in the other teams like golf, swimming, diving, tennis etc. they are overwhelmingly white as is true of many Division 1 NCAA schools. Try Googling the athletic teams aside from basketball and football of private universities and even public universities, and you will find the faces in the team roster looking starkly naked at you to be undeniably white ,even at Wesleyan or Wellesley. It is you who is ignorant of the facts.

  • mook

    I’m not a conservative but I broadly support the idea of affirmative action bakesales – race-based affirmative action is a nonsense, both in terms of social mobility and in terms of the oft-stated goal of increasing ‘diversity of life-experience’ among undergraduates. Affirmative action based on family income and parental education-levels, on the other hand, seems like it might actually widen the pool of experience (to say nothing of the idea that a middle-class black lawyer’s son brings more ‘diversity of life experience’ to a university whose student population is 66% the offspring of lawyers than a white international student from somewhere like Belarus).

    However, the campus cardinals do betray a certain amount of complacency in their social positioning by two omissions.
    Firstly, baked goods were more expensive to white students than to Asians. Any research on affirmative action will tell you that asian students must gain higher test scores than white students to be accepted to the same university.
    Secondly, the injustice of race-based affirmative action pales into significance next to the obnoxiousness of ‘legacy’ admissions, which are essentially affirmative action for the mediocre rich. No attempt to satirise affirmative action is legitimate unless it, in the same frame, condemns legacy admission as having a far greater impact on admissions decisions at all colleges than has race. The failure of the campus cardinals to highlight this restricts their critique to a racial framework and thus mitigates the wrongheaded accusations of racism.
    Future protests of this sort should go ahead, and should put legacy discrimination front and center.

  • Anonymous

    And so shall preferences for the children of alumni, children of the wealthy and famous, “development cases , children of faculty etc should be a focal target of everyone not just race preferences. Due to the vast system of preferences of every kind at Harvard and other private universities, the only way to deal with this problem is to deprive Harvard and other private universities of any public-levy tax money
    be it for research or student loans. I had always said that alumni, faculty,children of wealthy and famous preferences are the evil Geminid twin of race preferences. They are the 2 sides of the same debased ,worthless coin.