In response to the infamous bake sale held last month by college Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley in which pastries were priced differently depending on the buyer’s race, ethnicity or gender, New York’s Fordham University held a bake sale of its own last Friday. The controversial “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” was intended, said its organizers, to be a (sarcastic) comment on the University of California’s plan to adopt affirmative action policies, thereby creating a “double standard”: Thus, “White/Caucasian” students had to pay $2.00 for an item while Native Americans, $0.25.
Mark Naison, a Fordham professor of African American Studies, and students in his senior seminar on affirmative action held what they dubbed the “REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale” in which the items were priced according to different racial, ethnic and gender groups’ “advantages” in college admissions:
Women (General Admission): $1.30
Men (General Admission): $1.25
Under-Represented Minorities: $1.00
Legacies (Children of Alumni): $1.00
Recruited Athletes: 50 cents
Children of the Very Wealthy: 25 cents
The Fordham students’ bake sale prices were in distinct contrast to those of the UC Berkeley college Republicans, which made items the most expensive for “White/Caucasian” students and far cheaper for those belonging to racial/ethnic minorities; in addition, all women received an extra $0.25 discount.
Naison notes that, based on his own research and experience, “preferences given recruited athletes and children of alumni are far more powerful than those given underrepresented minorities and affect a far larger number of students.” The point of the bake sale, far from the stab at satire of the UC Berkeley college Republicans, was
…not only to dramatize the extraordinary power of great wealth in American society- something highlighted by the Wall Street Occupation and the protests inspired by it around the country- but to remove the stigma that has been placed on minority students as recipients of unfair preferences. These students are tired of being attacked as an affront to American “meritocracy.” Enough is enough!
The Fordham students’ bake sale price list also highlights the issue of economic disparities and with good reason. Just recently, the New York Times reported that colleges and universities are making it an awful lot easier for students whose parents can pay full tuition to gain admittance, regardless of their academic and other abilities.
With UC Berkeley itself recently announcing that tuition will rise 81 percent over the next four years, it’s more and more evident that money, forget about merits, is becoming the arbiter in college admissions. Students will very likely be finding themselves holding “Help Pay My Tuition Please Bake Sales” — and doing who knows what else — just so they can go to college at all.
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