The University of California’s Board of Regents agreed this week to study how the 10-campus system’s admissions and enrollment have changed in the decade since voters passed a law barring consideration of race and gender in public education.
Acting on a request from Regent Frederick Ruiz and student regent Maria Ledesma, the board decided to reconvene a task force of students, staff and faculty to look at how the university was complying with Proposition 209.
Details of the group’s new charge and a timeline for its work still have to be worked out, but several regents said they hoped it would delve more deeply into whether the initiative that required the university to abandon its traditional affirmative action programs undermined efforts to improve student diversity.
“African-Americans are disappearing from the UC at an alarming rate,” said Regent Eddie Island. “If 209 brought about this result, we ought to lay it on the table, and we ought to know it. The public ought to know it.”
The study group reported last summer that the university was doing well in admitting students from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds, but lagging in enrolling Black and Hispanic students compared to their presence in the population as a whole.
Some regents questioned whether another analysis was needed since the university already tracks student enrollment by race. Looking at UC systemwide, admissions for the coming fall semester are down slightly for Black students compared to 1997 and slightly up for Hispanic students.
Approved by California voters in November 1996, Proposition 209 banned consideration of race or gender in public hiring, contracting or education. Harold Johnson, a spokesman for the Pacific Legal Foundation, disagreed with UC’s suggestion that the measure has interfered with the university’s goal of promoting a diverse student body.
“The 10th anniversary of Proposition 209 is cause for celebration, not consternation, because it enshrined the principle of equal rights in California law, including at the UC system,” Johnson said. “That’s Prop. 209’s bedrock rule, and any tinkering with UC admissions that would depart from that rule would be immoral and illegal.”
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