Michael O’Shea, a senior political science and history student, is one of the founding fathers of the DCA, a member of DePaul College Republicans and organized the event that eventually drew up to 50 people. “It was a protest to spark discourse and have people engage in the topic,” said O’Shea.
The group set up a table in the Lincoln Park Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield, around 2:30 p.m. this past Tuesday. Cake and cookies were present and available for all who walked by, but it was the handmade sign that caught the attention from students, even those on the second floor in the cafeteria. “I was taken aback by what I saw because I didn’t know anyone had the guts to do it,” said Brandon Webber, a senior African and Black studies student and president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
The poster made by the DCA listed, in a downward fashion, the gender and ethnicity of a few different cultural groups along with a coinciding “suggested” price those attending the protest could pay in order to purchase the baked goods.
For example, the top group was identified as White and Asian males: $1. The next group was White and Asian females: .75 cents. At the bottom of the list were Black, Hispanic and Native American females: .25 cents. The purpose of the poster was to create a metaphor for affirmative action and how DCA perceives its role in the DePaul community today. O’Shea stated, “It’s ridiculous to charge cheaper brownies for minorities.”
After 45 minutes of peaceful protest, a group of students approached the table and began a heated conversation with those opposed to affirmative action. “It got a little more out of hand than I would have liked,” said O’Shea, but nothing more than words were exchanged.
According to Denise Mattson, spokeswoman for DePaul, Public Safety received several calls during the protest, one of which came from Student Government President Wesley Thompson. “I was worried that it was going to get out of hand because I heard a lot of people yelling back and forth,” said Thompson.
However, there was no force used in bringing the rally to an end. O’Shea stated that Greg MacVarish of Student Affairs arrived at the table and told them it was time to close down.
Alauna Dowd, a senior sociology student, was passing through the Student Center on her way to class when she came across the growing protest. “Their literature and what they were saying at the moment was extremely racist and biased,” said Dowd. “The offended individuals carried themselves in a very professional way because this could have been a very hostile situation,” she added.
Mattson released a statement from the university on Thursday evening. “DePaul permits student organizations to share political views,” Mattson said, “The expression of those views must take place in a civil, tolerant and respectful manner.” Mattson added that although DePaul accepts the opinions and views of all its students, the area DCA chose to conduct its rally was inappropriate. Mattson said, “The main hallway in the Student Center is not the proper area for the debate … we need to make sure that there is an environment for that speech that is safe for everyone.”
The administration, along with DCA and those who attended the protest have all agreed on one central point and that is there needs to be a continued discourse on the topic. Voltaire Davis, a junior sociology student and president of the Black Student Union, said, “Silencing [DCA] can be negative. When you silence someone you close off resolution.” Davis recently invited O’Shea to take part in his weekly radio show on WRDP, and an interview with the paper run by members of the Black Student Union, Black Voices.
“Conservatives feel that affirmative action is unconstitutional because it preferences race as a factor,” said O’Shea, “… this policy should be based on socio-economic status and not on race.” Affirmative action is a policy that is supported and executed by DePaul University. “DePaul embraces diversity and affirmative action is in compliance with the law,” Mattson said. Megan Wiskiewicz, a junior history student, is currently working on an e-mail along with other members in her class, Women’s and Gender’s Studies 200: Women in Transitional Context, that will call for a few changes within the DCA organization. “We are expressing concern and seriously requesting that the organization put out a public written apology, be placed on probation and agree to take part in a forum on affirmative action,” said Wiskiewicz. The e-mail compiled by her class will be sent to Jim Doyle in Student Affairs, among other faculty members.
O’Shea borrowed the idea for the bake sale from other universities that have used similar forms of protest on the topic. “The point was well made that we could have gone about it better and been more subtle … but our goal of creating more discourse on campus would not have been achieved,” said O’Shea.
The office of Student Affairs is planning on organizing a meeting for all parties involved, but no date or time has been set up. “I would hope that people engage in dialogue. It is something we can all learn from as long as there is a common respect among people,” said Webber.
O’Shea stated, “If anything, we want to foster more public discourse on affirmative action … it judges skin rather than content of character.”
Along with the proposed desire for continued discourse, Thompson said that this topic will also be closely examined by SGA in the next several meetings.
Schools: DePaul University