Affirmative action has existed since the 1960s, but after last week’s affirmative action bake sale hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas, student groups are hoping to educate the UT community about the long-used policy.
University Democrats, the Black Student Alliance and Students for Equality and Diversity organized “A Call to Action” on Monday, an event to address confusion about the controversial subject and provide a more organized forum to discuss Wednesday’s protest, BSA President Maranda Burkhalter said.
“I was at the bake sale when it happened, and I think one of the main issues on both sides there were a lot of people who weren’t 100 percent sure what affirmative action is or how it works,” Burkhalter said. “Our organization, SED and UDems wanted to make sure that both sides are educated. I think that’s the first step for moving forward is making sure all sides are aware of how it works.”
Gregory Vincent, vice president of Diversity and Community Engagement, and Leonard Moore, senior associate vice president and history professor, spoke at the open forum. Moore discussed the subject of “colorblindness,” while Vincent addressed the subject of affirmative action directly.
“This is very relevant given recent events,” Vincent said. “I think it was a call to action. There was a very strong response to the Young Conservatives’ bake sale, and I think the students who organized this event thought it would be good to have a discussion to bring some facts to life.”
In June, the Supreme Court upheld UT’s use of affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas, attesting to the University’s use of the policy but also bringing the contentious policy to the forefront during the school year.
The Young Conservatives of Texas held their bake sale to protest the decision, something Vincent condemned during his lecture at the event.
“You have a right to say it, but I have a right to bang you on it and tell you that I find your speech to be offensive and even … use the word deplorable,” Vincent told the audience. “I want to be able to say in the strongest terms possible that I find their speech offensive. There are many critiques of affirmative action, but having misguided bake sales is not the way to get to that search for the truth.”
YCT was invited to attend the event, but no members from the group were in the audience, Burkhalter said.
Sociology sophomore Mariam Abdul-Rashid said she appreciated the opportunity the event provided for her to become more educated about affirmative action.
“I was definitely not aware of affirmative action as much as I am now, but from what I have learned, I do think it is really important,” Abdul-Rashid said. “When you look at it from a very basic level, that people are being admitted based on their gender and race, it does look very problematic.”
Moore said he thought providing information about affirmative action is important but wasn’t sure it would change anybody’s mind.
“I think with affirmative action we just need to separate fact from fiction,” Moore said. “But I don’t know if that will change peoples’ attitudes. There are a lot of Americans period who believe we are at a place where we don’t need affirmative action programs anymore.”