UW group holds bake sale to slam affirmative action

October 9, 2003

By Nguyen Huy Vu at The Seattle Times

A conservative student group at the University of Washington said it will continue to protest affirmative action after it held a mock bake sale yesterday in which the goods were priced according to race or ethnicity.

In an attempt to show what, they said, are the inequities of affirmative action in college admissions, chocolate-chip cookies were priced at 25 cents for Native Americans, 30 cents for African Americans, 35 cents for Latinos, 50 cents for Pacific Islanders, 95 cents for Asian Americans and $1 for whites.

Doughnuts were available for 50 cents to everyone except Asian Americans and whites.

“We knew this would be a good chance to rile people up,” said Jason Chambers, 22, president of the University of Washington College Republicans. “The point of it (the bake sale) was to start a dialogue on affirmative action. We want to question it and give another voice to the debate.”

Such politically charged bake sales have been held by conservative student groups around the country, including at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Michigan.

Several UW students took exception to the sale, which began at 9:30 a.m. More than 150 students crowded around the College Republicans’ table in front of the Husky Union Building (HUB) and had heated discussions. At 12:45 p.m., an angry student tore down the list of prices and tossed cookies onto the ground, causing a minor melee. Campus police officers were called to control the confrontation, and then told the bake-sale group to close up shop.

Stanley Daniels, 18, said the commotion started when some students used racial slurs and threats.

“There is no problem when students express a view,” the sophomore said. “But when some people used those remarks, that’s when the talking ended.”

The College Republicans denied that anyone from its group made derogatory racial remarks.

Tiffany Prinos, 20, said she was on the way to the HUB to meet friends when the message on the sign made her stop. “It was really offensive, especially since they labeled people with different prices and didn’t explain why,” the junior said. “I spoke with them, and they gave mixed signals. Was this an effort to reach out to different communities or is this a protest?”

Junior Kevin Fredericks, 20, said the event was to offend and not to encourage discussion.

“What they wanted to do is make people angry, but they got a lot more people flatout mad. I think it was an absurd way to discuss affirmative action,” he said. “It’s like a slap in the face because affirmative action is not in place here now.”

In 1998, Washington voters passed Initiative 200, which ended affirmative action in enrollment and hiring.

Chambers said his group held the bake sale to illustrate to students how affirmative action is, in his view, a fundamentally racist concept. “This is still a prominent issue on this campus,” he said. “Affirmative action may have ended in this state in 1999, but this university still asks you what color you are.”

Nguyen Huy Vu: 206-464-3292 or vnguyen2@seattletimes.com

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Schools: University of Washington