It wasn't the response the UT Chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas or YCT was hoping for when they held a bake sale Wednesday on the West Mall of campus. Shafik is a member of YCT, “People were really aggressive about us, about it, calling us racist, taking our posters, taking away our baked good, ripping up what we were holding,” he said. Shafik said they just wanted to start a conversation about affirmative action. “I absolutely want diversity on campus, but not just racial diversity, ethnic diversity, intellectual diversity, political opinions. We have to figure out another way to get all kinds of minorities in this campus without affirmative action,” he said.
But what other students had a problem with is how they went about it. Prices for their baked goods were based on race and gender, with Asians paying the most and Native Americans getting the goods for free.
Kevin Helgren is the UT Student Body President, “The act of putting financial values on certain groups of people, based on their gender or race, is a really prominent way to engage in racism in 2016.” Helgren said affirmative action is a policy that guarantees people with all different backgrounds have the same chance. “Affirmative action is a policy that allows the University of Texas to recruit and more diverse student body and if anyone suggests that there is any sort of ulterior motive, I’d say that that mentality is deeply misinformed and disheartening,” Helgren said. Counter-protestors agreed,” Jarvis Dillard is a UT Student, “Everybody works hard, and we all got here because we work and it wasn't because of the color of our skin or by the content of our character,” he said. “If you want to start a conversation about affirmative action race relations, educate yourself first, and don't publicly display something that is clearly going to evoke all kinds of emotions running high,” said Matt Reitman, another UT student.
Although heated and emotional at times, Helgren said it's a conversation that needed to happen. “This was two groups of people coming together who have fundamentally different values and mindsets, and what better place to have a conversation like this than on a college campus like ours,” he said.
Students agreed to continue this conversation in a more productive way and are organizing a future event.
They are staying in touch with each other through #UTBakeSale on Twitter.