Update 7:02 p.m.: Among the tablers on the West Mall, the Young Conservatives of Texas held a bake sale — but instead of selling cookies for charity, they used baked goods to express their opinions on affirmative action.
The anti-affirmative action bake sale, which took place on Wednesday from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., led to protest from close to 300 students for several hours. Prices for baked goods were sold based on the race and gender of the purchaser, and lower prices were allocated to black and hispanic students, while Native American students were offered the sale items for free. Asian students were asked to pay the highest prices, followed by white students.
“We’re here to talk about how students should be judged on their merit and their scholarship rather than their race and gender when it comes to college admissions,” said YCT communications director Allison Peregory, a government senior.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of UT-Austin in the Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas case, allowing the University to continue using race as a factor in the holistic admissions process. Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff, sued the University saying under-qualified minority students were accepted over her based on their race. Many YCT members shared similar views to Fisher on affirmative action.
Undeclared sophomore Kyle Chunda, a YCT member, argued that while affirmative action was useful in the past, it’s unnecessary now.
“The bake sale angered a lot of people, obviously, but I feel like it’s dehumanizing to set different standards for different people,” Chunda said.
The last bake sale protesting affirmative action was held by YCT in 2013 and led to national outcry against the organization. Peregory said the organization brought back the bake sale because members believed affirmative action was an important topic to talk about for the University.
YCT also held “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” in 2013 where students were offered $25 gift cards for catching students wearing shirts with “illegal immigrant” on them, as reported by The Daily Texan. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about how illegal immigration affected students’ everyday lives, according to former chairman Lorenzo Garcia.
Dewayne Perry, an electrical and computer engineering senior, saw the protest and joined YCT in discussing the need to end affirmative action at UT. Perry said he believes black students should be held to the same standard as students from other races, and affirmative action accepts under-qualified students.
“[Ending affirmative action will] bring honor to the black community. It raises the graduation rates of blacks because qualified blacks will come here,” Perry said.
Perry said one of the main points brought up by protestors was the lack of access to better education and testing resources for minorities affected by affirmative action. Perry said he believes affirmative action policies indirectly contribute to this problem.
“You’ve got to have a culture of people willing to learn,” Perry said.
Perry said he tutors middle schoolers and high schoolers in the Austin community every week in math and financial literacy so they can be prepared for their futures.
Government junior Maranda Burkhalter, president of UT’s Black Student Alliance, said Perry is known for speaking on issues affecting black students as if he represents the black community, but said he lacks involvement in UT’s black organizations.
Donald Parish Jr., a UT alumnus who brought middle school and high school students from the Dallas area to UT to show them around campus, joined the debate when he saw Perry arguing against affirmative action.
“To have an African-American support that lunacy, I felt like that was just ridiculous and I felt like I needed to correct that,” Parish Jr. said. “I think they did it to get the crowd that they got. They wanted to get attention."
According to Parish Jr, affirmative action allows for students from underprivileged backgrounds to gain access to a better future.
“If you take away their hope, they’re going to turn to drugs, they’re going to turn to crime, they’re going to turn to sex-trafficking, they’re going to turn to all of these things that none of us like,” Parish Jr. said.
Students from Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville gathered near the table to listen to the discussion after hearing the commotion while on a tour.
“For us black people to have an education, that’s what we all want to do,” Avery Byers, a freshman at Hendrickson, said. “Some of us want to become lawyers, doctors and philosophers, and we can’t do that without coming [to a university]. For [Perry] to question why we’re getting an education in the first place is very disrespectful.”
Student Government President Kevin Helgren arrived to the bake sale, which he referred to as racist, soon after the protest grew around noon and urged students to move the discussion to the Union ballroom, but the group stayed near the table to continue discussion.
YCT member Christopher Shafik said he felt the “racists go home” chant degraded him because he felt many were making assumptions about students in the organization for having a different opinion.
“The assumption is that because we have different opinions, we’re racist,” said Shafik, an international relations and global studies junior. “Look how combative it is. Look how aggressive it is. If we’re going to have open conversation about ideas on campus, this can’t happen. I feel attacked almost.”
Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, denounced the actions of YCT and said while the West Mall is a space of free speech, the actions of the organization were still unwarranted.
“Focusing our attention on the provocative nature of the YCT’s actions ignores a much more important issue: They create an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff,” Vincent said in a statement. “The West Mall is a place where free speech is exercised by all students, and rightly so, because it is meant to be an arena that inspires dialogue from diverse viewpoints. However, it is also meant to be a space where students exhibit respect for each other while holding those viewpoints. Although it is their right to do so, it is deplorable that a few students took advantage of this open forum to direct negative sentiment toward their peers.”
Protesters started dispersing after YCT left close to 2 p.m., but some students stayed after to continue the discussion.
Original story: Loud chants of “Racists go home” echoed in West Mall as nearly 300 protesters gathered to push out an anti-affirmative action bake sale held by Young Conservatives of Texas.
The bake sale started at 11 a.m., and protesters started gathering around the table starting at noon to discuss the issue at hand. More protesters joined it as it gained traction on social media, and some gathered after hearing the discussion. University-wide Representative Ashley Choi started livestreaming the protest around noon, and it reached close to 100,000 viewers. The Daily Texan livestream, which started at 1 p.m,. reached upwards of 77,000 viewers.
Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, denounced the actions of YCT and said while West Mall is a space of free speech, the actions of the organization were still unwarranted.
“Focusing our attention on the provocative nature of the YCT’s actions ignores a much more important issue: they create an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff,” Vincent said in a statement. “The West Mall is a place where free speech is exercised by all students, and rightly so, because it is meant to be an arena that inspires dialogue from diverse viewpoints. However, it is also meant to be a space where students exhibit respect for each other while holding those viewpoints. Although it is their right to do so, it is deplorable that a few students took advantage of this open forum to direct negative sentiment toward their peers.”
Will Clark, Anusha Lalani and Lillian Michel contributed to this story.
This story has been updated since its original publication. An earlier version incorrectly stated the bake sale took place on Thursday.