Legislation to Give Voters Say on Race-, Gender-Based Policies Moves Forward

Mitchell Handler, Daily Californian, February 2, 2014

California voters may soon have the opportunity to decide if race, gender or ethnicity should be used as factors of consideration in admission, retention and recruitment programs in the state’s higher education systems, including the University of California.

A proposed constitutional amendment approved last week by the state Senate intends to repeal parts of Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot initiative that prohibited the consideration of race, sex or ethnicity in public education, employment or contracting.

Should it succeed, Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 would allow public education institutions to consider such traits in their programs. SCA 5 will next move to the state Assembly for approval.

If passed, voters could have their say this November or in November 2016.

The number of minority students admitted to UC Berkeley fell dramatically after Prop. 209. For example, about 50 percent of African Americans who applied for freshman admission to UC Berkeley in 1995 were admitted; in 1998, only 20 percent of African Americans who applied were accepted. In fall 2013, about 10 percent of African American students who applied were accepted, against an overall admission rate of 20.8 percent. Currently, African Americans comprise 3.4 percent of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate population.


Californians might also look favorably at this new legislation—a 2011 statewide survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 75 percent of residents thought it was somewhat to very important that schools have a racially diverse student body.


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