California Regent Wants to Repeal
BERKELEY, Calif. — In a move that is largely symbolic, a University of California Regent said last month that he is preparing a proposal to reverse the university’s groundbreaking ban on the use of racial and gender preferences in admissions decisions.
And in a related development, Berkeley officials announced that applications for fall enrollment from Blacks and Hispanics have risen significantly in the past year.
William Bagley, a San Francisco lawyer and a member of the UC Board of Regents since 1989, says he is gathering support to overturn the 1995 ban. But even if approved by the regents, the proposal would not reinstate the use of racial and gender preferences since California voters made the ban a state law with the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996.
“We should rescind the part of the resolution that puts the university in the vortex of the issue,” Bagley says. “It would tell the world that it has perhaps misperceived that the minority community is not welcome.”
Bagley says unless the regents pass his proposal, the university risks being known as the poster child for the move to end affirmative action. Since the highly-publicized passage of Proposition 209, other state governments have battled over the use of racial preferences. Texas, Florida, Michigan and Washington have recently passed or are attempting to pass legislation that would end the use of affirmative action in admissions decisions for their public university systems.
“We need a new face on the university,” Bagley says. “It shouldn’t be labeled as the leader of the force against affirmative action. We should not be the leaders of an effort that has now taken national proportions. We made ourselves the leaders. Of course we’re for outreach, of course we’re for 209, but we’re no longer the sponsors.”
But Regent Ward Connerly, who publicly championed the ban on affirmative action both within the UC system and statewide, says application statistics reporting an increase in underrepresented minorities show that students have not been as disillusioned as Bagley claims.
“Recent figures show the university has dispelled a notion that he has been largely responsible for creating,” Connerly says. “That was stupid then and it is stupid now. If that is the perception, then why are they applying here in such large numbers?”
In fact, applications from Black and Hispanic students are up significantly for fall, University of California at Berkeley officials say.
“We’re very glad, very honored that these students have applied to Berkeley,” says Richard Black, acting associate director of admissions and enrollment.
The new numbers, released last month, follow concerns that the end of affirmative action would deter some minorities from applying.
The most significant increase for this fall’s freshman class came in Hispanic applications, with 3,382 students applying, up 20 percent from the 2,818 who applied last year. Applications from Black students increased 9.7 percent, from 1,135 applications last year to 1,245.
Applications from Asian Americans, the biggest group on campus, rose 7.3 percent to 11,522 and White applications rose slightly less than 1 percent to 11,385.
Overall, Berkeley received 32,696 applications for its roughly 4,000 seats, a 5.1 percent increase.
Similar results were recorded at UCLA and the University of California’s six other undergraduate campuses. Looking at the system as a whole, Hispanics posted the largest gains with 7,814 applications compared to last year’s 7,349, an increase of about 6 percent. Black applications rose 3.6 percent, from 2,099 to 2,174.
White applications were about the same, from 22,019 to 21,944, and applications from Asian Americans rose 2.6 percent, from 14,535 to 14,920.
“We hope that this is a result of our outreach efforts. We’ve done special things with the students from Los Angeles and we’ve redoubled our efforts in the [San Francisco] Bay area. But really, we don’t have the data to back that up yet,” Black says.
UC regents voted to stop considering race in admissions in 1995, a change that took effect for fall 1998 freshmen. At Berkeley, Black and Hispanic admissions tumbled that year. Black admissions, for instance, went from 545 in 1997 to 236 in 1998, down 57 percent.
Looking at the entire UC system, the figures recovered some last year, with Black and Hispanic admissions close to 1997 levels. However, that was attributed mainly to more minorities going to lower-profile campuses. At flagship Berkeley, 293 Black students were admitted last fall, still well below affirmative action levels.
But this year’s numbers Connerly finds encouraging. He says he doubted Bagley’s proposal would ever appear on a UC Board of Regents agenda, and that if it did it would receive little support.
“[Bagley]’s been talking about this now for five years and I don’t think anything is going to come of it,” Connerley says. “He’s got blinders on and I don’t think he’s serving the university well by continuing to beat this drum. I doubt he’ll get a second.”
But Student Regent Michelle Pannor says she would vote for a proposal to reverse the ban: “I think that I would be supportive if he puts it on the agenda.
— This report was compiled from reports in the University of California-Berkeley Daily Californian andThe Associated Press.
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