Do cookies taste better when they come from a highly controversial bake sale? Wesleyan students had the opportunity to find out for themselves today in Usdan, when the Cardinal Conservatives hosted their first Affirmative Action Bake Sale. The bake sale was an attempt to highlight the alleged injustice of affirmative action policies by charging different amounts for baked goods based on students’ race. Caucasian students forked out $2.00 per cookie, Asian Americans $1.50, Hispanics $1.00, and African Americans 75 cents. Native Americans got cookies for free.
Victoria Rowe, a member of the Cardinal Conservatives, gave this statement:
“We believe that affirmative action is morally wrong and racially divisive… Affirmative action perpetuates institutionalized racism by sanctioning different treatment for different races. We believe that the practice of affirmative-action veers from the Founding Fathers’ vision for America — a country where all are created equal.”
Though our campus is no stranger to political protests from the left, we rarely hear from the more conservative demographic of our student body. And while many students expressed disapproval of the bake sales’ politics, most also said that they were happy to see an active opposition. Interestingly, most of these sympathetic students did not wish to be quoted, perhaps for fear of falling prey to Wesleyan’s liberal backlash. Myles Potters ’12 states “although I personally disagree with the premise of the bake sale, and frankly think that the Cardinal Conservatives are missing the point of affirmative action, I think its great that they are starting a dialogue which forces us to really consider the issue instead of just falling back onto the stereotypical—for Wesleyan—liberal party line.”
Others felt that the Cardinal Conservatives stance was shortsighted; Pallos Davis ’08 (an alumnus of color manning a nearby booth for the Democratic Party) says “I’d like to see what would happen to Wesleyan’s demographics if the school’s application form didn’t take race into account.” Noah Langholz ’13 took issue with the Cardinal Conservatives’ alternative to affirmative action: “they are arguing for a purely merit based system of admission, this assumes equal resources, which is not a reality.”
One thing that the coordinators, customers, and general onlookers of the bake sale can hopefully agree upon is the complicated and sensitive nature of affirmative action. While the (for lack of a better term) ‘shock value’ of the demonstration definitely got people talking, the publicity stunt will be more productive once it is followed by some kind of open forum where the people who were effected by or generated opinions from the bake sale can have their voices heard. As of right now, the Anarchist Radio Collective plans to devote their show next week to discussion of the bake sale and Wesleyan’s affirmative action policy.
photo credit: Alexandra Alvarez
Update: on Friday, Wesleyan University will host two events in response to the bake sale. The first, news of which was disseminated in a campus wide email, is a forum hosted by concerned faculty members (details here). The second (not a campus wide email, but widely distributed nonetheless) is a call to arms, asking students to congregate in Usdan between 12:00 and 2:00pm wearing red white and black.
Perhaps the best defense would bring with it the same theatrical absurdity that the original bake sale did: At the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the Graduate and Professional Students of Color student organization responded to a bake sale held by the Students for Individual Liberty by holding a White Privilege popcorn giveaway where white males received a full bag of popcorn, while women and non-whites received 1/3 of a bag.