AUSTIN, Texas — Is this deja vu? Or is it 2013 all over again?
On Wednesday, the Young Conservatives of Texas club at the University of Texas at Austin held an "affirmative action bake sale" offering cookies at different prices based on the race and sex of the buyer.
A cookie cost $1.50 for Asian males, $1 for white males and 50 cents for black-American and Latino males. Cookies for American Indians of both genders were free of charge.
The bake sale, which club members characterized as a protest against the "institutionalized racism" of affirmative action programs at colleges and universities, soon attracted a crowd of hundreds who lobbed criticism at the conservative students.
"Check your privilege!" they yelled as the club's remaining members volleyed questions from the crowd. The crowd began to disperse just after 2 p.m. when the remaining members of the group left to chants of "racists go home!"
The UT-Austin student newspaper The Daily Texan broadcast live from the event.
"Our protest was designed to highlight the insanity of assigning our lives value based on our race and ethnicity, rather than our talents, work ethic and intelligence," said club chairman Vidal Castaneda. "It is insane that institutional racism, such as affirmative action, continues to allow for universities to judge me by the color of my skin rather than my actions."
The same club came under fire in 2013 for holding a nearly identical bake sale — charging different races different prices for brownies. Gregory J. Vincent, UT-Austin's vice president for diversity and community engagement, called that bake sale "deplorable."
Vincent again spoke for the university on Wednesday, calling the latest bake sale "inflammatory and demeaning."
"Yet 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," he said.
Vincent acknowledged that the school's West Mall, where the bake sale was held, is an area where protests often take place and where free speech and the expression of diverse opinions on myriad issues is encouraged. But, while it was "their right" to hold the bake sale, he questioned whether the group's methods furthered the dialogue about race and privilege or simply sought to divide the campus along racial lines.
"In seeking an audience for their ideas, the YCT resorted to exercising one of the university's core values to the detriment of others," Vincent said. "Such actions are counterproductive to true dialogue on our campus, and it is unrepresentative of the ideals toward which our community strives."
UT-Austin has been at the forefront of the fight to uphold affirmative active in college admissions. Just this year, it won a years-long legal battle against a white female student who sued after she was denied admission to the flagship university.
She claimed she wasn't accepted because of the school's "holistic" admissions criteria, which look at students' various characteristics, including race. The suit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices upheld the constitutionality of UT-Austin's admissions policy.