Few customers, lots of talk at Illini Republicans' bake sale
URBANA — While their "affirmative-action bake sale" drew a large crowd to their table on the quad Tuesday, the Illini Republicans weren't selling a whole lot of cookies.
"We've sold a few," said member Jakub Balicki, a UI freshman.
The group caused a stir last week when it announced plans for a bake sale — with a twist. Prices would be set based on race and ethnicity — "in much the same manner as our school manipulates admission requirements," the group said.
On Tuesday, a poster board informed passers-by that cookies cost $2 for Asians, $1.75 for whites, $1.50 for Hispanics/Latinos, $1.25 for blacks, $1.50 for "others" and minus-$0.25 for women.
"Above prices are suggested for discussion purposes," it read. "Ask for details."
"The point of our bake sale is to bring the issue of affirmative action into the light of the student population because we believe that school admissions should be based off a merit-based system," Balicki said. "If there's an African-American student and a white student who come from the same poor neighborhood, through affirmative action, the African-American student would have an advantage because they're seen as a more disadvantaged racial class compared to other races.
"If those two students apply to the same university at the same exact merits, they should be admitted for their merits and not just for the color of their skin."
As expected, the event sparked counter-bake sales in the same area.
The Chicano unity organization MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Azlan) put on a "solidarity bake sale," in which items went for $1 apiece — no matter one's skin color or gender.
"We're out here to prove we're not quotas or tokens," said UI sophomore Juan Luna.
Luna and fellow MEChA member Jocelyn Ramirez said the proceeds they collected from Tuesday's sale would go to the C-U Immigration Forum.
"The most important thing we can do as an organization is to promote our own causes like helping C-U Immigration and using those funds to help them out," Ramirez said. "That's one of the causes we support as an organization."
Ramirez said Tuesday's bake sale led to a lot of discussion between the various student organizations participating, though many were left frustrated with the dialogue between the groups and the Illini Republicans.
"I feel like they have the outcome they wanted by having people come by and ask questions," Ramirez said, "but when someone tries to ask them questions, they weren't answering, so I'm not sure how productive it really was.
"'What was your upbringing?' 'What were some of your personal experiences?' Just to get to know them. It came off pretty rude for them to ignore some of those basic questions."
UI sophomore Earnest Lucious, a native of Chicago, was able to have a short conversation with members of the Illini Republicans.
"I felt it was important to combat this view," Lucious said. "They're probably not going to understand it because they built these beliefs over their entire lives, so a 10-minute conversation isn't going to change that."
"I simply came here to block their revenue because they're not going to listen to me anyway."
It was a mostly civil day, though at one point a student tried to confiscate the Republicans' baked goods before his efforts were thwarted by others.
Prior to the bake sale, Dementro Powell, the director of the Office of Registered Organizations, released a statement acknowledging that many students, faculty, staff and community members had taken offense to the nature of the Illini Republicans' sale.
Powell went on to note that the Illini Republicans followed standard procedure and received approval to hold the event on campus.
"The university does not withhold approval for these events based on the proposed purpose, topic or message," Powell wrote.
Staff members from Student Affairs met with the students as part of the process and told them that if the event involved discriminatory pricing based on race or ethnicity it would be a violation of UI policy and would be investigated by the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
They were also told their pricing practices might violate the Illinois Human Rights Act and could result in a state investigation.
Tuesday's event led to a half-dozen other sales by various organizations, all saying they did so to promote inclusion.
Crescendo was as busy as any student group on the quad, selling cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls and pies.
"We ran out of pumpkin bread, almost out of cinnamon rolls, ran out of banana bread, ran out of a pie earlier, but we got some more donated," said Crescendo president Deborah Waters, a UI sophomore.
Crescendo was accepting cash payments, as well as electronic payments from apps like Venmo. The group said proceeds will benefit its scholarship fund, which helps underrepresented students in performing arts on campus.
"We want to show that every student here is not just meeting a quota, but they're also qualified candidates, and we've exceeded admissions standards," Waters said.
"I actually think it's a good thing to have these kinds of conversations and for people to be vocal about those opinions because people tend to steer away from conversations related to social justice, and they're really important to have."