Bake sale way off the mark

The college Republicans at UC Berkeley created a controversy this week after announcing a bake sale with a twist — how much you pay for a cupcake will depend on your race and gender. Whites pay two bucks,followed by Asian-Americans at $1.50, Latinos $1.00, blacks $0.75, and Native Americans just a quarter. All women get a 25-cent discount. According to Shawn Lewis, president of UC Berkeley Republicans, the pricing is an objection to a bill, SB 185,that would allow the University of California to consider race and gender among other factors in the admissions process. Two bucks! Oh, the white man has it the hardest, as Kipling smiles from his grave. But solely based on what actually goes on in college admissions, the pricing structure that the Berkeley GOPers created is incorrect. Women, in many instances, face greater odds of admission. Women consistently outnumber men on college campuses — 58 percent of undergrads at UVM are women. In an 2006, op-ed in the New York Times, college admissions officer Jennifer Britz said that as institutions approach the gender balance “tipping point”of 60 percent in favor of women, they will admit men of a lesser caliber while waitlisting well-rounded female applicants. In “The Price Of Admission,” Daniel Goldman argues that Asian-Americans have a more difficult time being admitted than white students, despite scoring higher on standardized tests. Using merit as the sole factor in the admissions process, though egalitarian, assumes that everyone has had the same access to education and opportunity in their life, which is not true. If all other factors were equal, admission based on merit logically seems to be the best policy — those who work hardest and get the best grades should be admitted. But at the heart of this is the misconception that hard work translates directly into success. People who grow up poor are inherently disadvantaged in terms of access to education. They are less likely to attend preschool — where studies have shown is a critical time in education. So where does race come into play? Race and poverty, and therefore, educational status, have a direct correlation. In the United States, people who are black and Latino are three times as likely to be impoverished. Black students are twice as likely to drop out of high school than their white counterparts; Latino students are three times as likely. USA Today published in August an article noting that on average, Latino students score nearly 300 points less on the SAT than white students.  In an interview with CNN’s John King, California state senator Ed Hernandez noted that 45 percent of the state’s high school graduates were Latino, yet the University of California student body was just 16 percent Latino. Why shouldn’t we try to balance the playing field for those who have been disadvantaged through no fault of their own? If the Berkeley Republicans object to using race and gender as admissions factors because they are not merit-based, they are ignoring a host of other non-academic factors that already exist. There already is an inherent advantage in college admissions for the affluent — legacy preference. The kid who’s dad and grandfather went to the school has a better chance of getting in then the kid who’s trying to be the first in his family to go to college. The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that using racial quotas in college admissions is unconstitutional. However, decisions in the last decade have affirmed the right of institutions to use race as a factor in admissions. And that’s precisely what SB 185 would do — allow the University of California to consider race and gender in the admissions process. The Berkeley GOPers are so far off the mark with this bake sale — a juvenile attempt at provocation masqueraded as satire — that it’s difficult to take them seriously. They are railing against one form of admissions selection while ignoring a host of others that already exist. College admissions aren’t and have never been solely about merit — but the California should be applauded, not ridiculed, for trying to provide greater access to higher education.