UC takes stance on affirmative action case

Affirmative ActionOn Nov. 2 University of California President Janet Napolitano and all 10 UC chancellors, including UCR chancellor Kim Wilcox, indicated their support for affirmative action through an amicus brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in support of the University of Texas in the Fisher v. University of Texas case. Any third party in support of a faction or imparting additional relevant evidence can file an amicus brief.

In 2008, undergraduate Abigail Fisher argued the University of Texas’s admission policies focused too much on race, which gave unfair bias to minority students. According to past testimonies, the University of Texas argued that acknowledging race was only a miniscule aspect in regards to admissions.

The District Court that heard the case ruled in favor of the university in 2009. The case then went on to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which also ruled in favor of the university. The case continued up to the Supreme Court who vacated their decision and sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals again ruled in favor of the university. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case a second time and will be ruling on it Dec. 9.

In 1997 California voters passed Proposition 209, which banned government agencies from discriminating based on race, sex or ethnicity, which in turn banned the use of affirmative action, by public universities. Since then, the UC system’s ethnic diversity has greatly decreased, especially at highly competitive schools such as UC Berkeley and UCLA.

While Hispanic and African-American students make up more than half of all California’s high school graduates, the amount of African-American and Hispanics represented at the UC system is only around 25 percent, with the numbers decidedly lower at UC Berkeley and UCLA. The percentage of African-American students in the UC system took a sharp decrease after the end of affirmative action and the percentages have not risen to the same level since.

“The University of California belongs to the people of California, and race-blind admissions have curbed our ability to fully engage the learning potential found among this state’s diverse population,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “We are committed to serving California’s educational needs. Ensuring campuses enable meaningful interactions among students of different backgrounds is key to this mission.”

The UC system has many preemptive programs in place in order to reach disadvantaged students. Amongst these is an admission guarantee for the top 9 percent of students in a graduating class, as well as taking into consideration the obstacles low income and minority students face in life and placing less of an emphasize on test scores.

While the UCs continuously enroll more African-American and Hispanic students every year in an attempt to better represent the diversity of California’s population, the numbers still do not represent the amount of graduating African-American and Hispanic high school students.

While diversity has decreased in other UC’s, UCR’s ethnic diversity increased after the ban on affirmative action. UCR is ranked as the seventh most diverse schools in the nation, including a reputation as a top choice campus for minority populations, low-income students and LGBT students. At UCR the graduation and retention rate is almost equal for students of all ethnicities and income brackets.

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