Posted on November 17, 2004

UC to Vote on ‘Multiracial’ Category

Elysha Tenenbaum, Daily Californian (Berkeley), Nov. 15

The UC Board of Regents will vote Wednesday on whether to add a “multiracial” check-box to its admissions application, a move that would challenge federal guidelines and has already drawn heavy criticism from students across the UC system.

The proposal from UC Regent Ward Connerly would add an all-inclusive category on applications for applicants who identify themselves as multiracial. Currently, multiracial applicants have to check multiple ethnicity boxes that apply.

The U.S. Department of Education prohibits the use of a multiracial category. Although the department is currently reviewing its guidelines for multiracial data collection, it currently accepts only one recorded ethnicity, regardless of how many boxes an applicant checks, said UC spokesperson Ravi Poorsina.

UC reports the ethnicity that has the least representation to sidestep the federal regulation that only one ethnicity be reported, Poorsina said.

If the Board of Regents passes the motion, UC will instruct UC President Robert Dynes to “appeal the federal paradigm” to allow the university to institute the new system.

“There are a significant number of people in California who consider themselves ‘multiracial,’” Connerly said. “That is their identity, and it is not sufficient for them to check several boxes and then leave it to the discretion of the University of California to decide how those several boxes are going to be collapsed into one for reporting purposes.”

But his proposal has already come under strong opposition from several multiracial coalitions, including UC Berkeley’s Multi-Cultural Student Union, which is circulating a petition to urge the regents not to adopt the change.

“Multiracial people are very diverse and lumping us in a box would really cut down on the accuracy of the data,” said Ai-Ling Malone, president of the union.

Connerly argues that this type of data collection has roots in slavery and was used for counting slaves.

“It goes back to the days of slavery when for purposes of counting slaves, because if you’ve got one drop of black blood, then you were black,” he said.

By Any Means Necessary, a nationwide coalition that advocates affirmative action, is planning to rally against the box at the two-day regents meeting at UCLA.

“(The proposal) denies students and the population at large the right to hold UC accountable to ensuring that we have an actual representative student body that reflects our state’s population,” said BAMN member and ASUC Senator Yvette Felarca. “To me it’s sort of like a softer version of Prop. 54 because it’s hiding information — it doesn’t clarify anything.”

The ASUC Senate passed a bill last week denouncing the multiracial box.

Connerly was a leading supporter of Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in the California public school system. He also wrote last year’s failed Proposition 54, which would have banned the collection of racial and ethnic data by state agencies.

“I assume that if you embrace a racial classification system, you want it to be accurate,” he said. “What I am proposing does not weaken the credibility of the data, it strengthens it because it makes it more accurate.”