Thursday, March 21

Protesters pursue policy change


Students rally outside regents meeting Wednesday to highlight UC's "˜diversity crisis,' denounce Prop. 209

SLIDESHOW
CLICK HERE for an audio slideshow from the "Day of Reckoning"
student march.

The beat of drums guided the chants of several hundred
protesters as they marched down Bruin Walk and rallied in front of
Covel Commons on Wednesday during the UC Board of Regents meeting,
with the goal of having the regents publicly denounce Proposition
209.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Prop. 209 has got to go!”
students yelled, wearing shirts that read “Got Black
Students?” and “Proposition 209 killed
diversity.” They were armed with pickets and posters that
read “Education and Equality for All.”

Proposition 209, which passed in 1996, prohibits the use of race
or ethnicity as a factor in hiring or admissions at public
institutions in California.

The march began in the morning at Royce Hall with fewer than 100
people. As the crowd made its way to Covel Commons, it collected
over 100 additional marchers and met up with hundreds more in front
of the regents meeting.

Representatives from different student minority groups such as
the African Student Union, the American Indian Students Association
and the Asian Pacific Coalition participated and spoke during the
rally.

They repeatedly emphasized that the University of California
population does not reflect the diverse population of
California.

“We are in a diversity crisis right now,” said
Virginia Myers, president of the American Indian Students
Association. “And we are showing that it is important to UCLA
students; it is important to the community and it is important
statewide.”

Speakers from a variety of student groups at the rally addressed
three issues they want resolved by UC Regents: for $33 million to
be allocated to academic preparation programs; for four students to
be added to the UC Regents’ diversity study; and for the
regents to publicly denounce Proposition 209 and support a campaign
to repeal it.

“Admissions should look at students and where they are
coming from and not ignore that person’s identity,”
said Lucero Chavez, campus organizing director in the Undergraduate
Students Association Council external vice president’s
office. “Now it’s a law that it can’t even be
looked at.”

At the rally, students were asked to come onstage to express how
they felt. Out of a crowd of people dressed in black, students
grabbed the microphone, with their voices resonating from the Covel
Commons quad throughout the Hill.

Some students said they were angry about what they believe is a
lack of diversity on campus. Others said they were inspired by the
attending crowd ““ a crowd which the speakers said they
believe reflects the population of California and should be
mimicked to establish a more diverse campus.

The academic preparation programs provide resources to
underprivileged K-12 students in order to help them compete with
other applicants. In 2001, the program received over $80 million in
funding and $13 million this year, said Tina Park, USAC external
vice president.

The regents’ diversity study plans to inspect the UC
system’s current efforts to increase diversity.

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Rhommel Canare, a third-year sociology and Asian American
studies student, said the problem she sees with abolishing
affirmative action is it disregards the differing social
circumstances that students might be faced with if they are
low-income minority students.

“What the proposition did was not pay attention to
disadvantaged youth in the K-12 system,” Canare said.
“How do they compare them to students who are privileged in
affluent areas and have the resources to make themselves look good
to higher-education institutions?”

But other students expressed concern about how affirmative
action affects non-minority students or students who are not from
underprivileged backgrounds.

Alethea Go, a first-year art history student and bystander at
the rally, said she was concerned that applicants who work hard to
get a high GPA might not be accepted because they are part of the
majority while students with a lower GPA could get in because they
are a minority.

“I don’t think it’s fair if someone
get’s a 3.5 and gets in based on their race when other people
are trying so hard,” said Claudia Pena, the only Latina in
her law school division section, who said conclusions about
people’s work ethics should not be drawn from their GPA.

The speakers at the rally said they believe the repeal of
Proposition 209 would allow for a more leveled admissions
process.

Earlier this year, UCLA approved a holistic admissions process
in which applications are considered on a more personal level.

Diversity is an important issue because the student population
should reflect the population of the school’s region,
especially at a public school, said fourth-year music education
student Jeffery Wallace, of Alpha Phi Alpha and ASU.

“The demographics at UCLA do not parallel the demographics
of California and a public institution should be serving its
community,” Wallace said.

Myers said diversity is also important because in order for
different perspectives to be presented.

“As an American Indian, when people talk about American
Indians, they talk about them like they are extinct,” Myers
said. “We need diversity in order to have other perspectives.
If you all have similar backgrounds, how do you create a meaningful
dialogue?”

MEChA provided student volunteer security guards to ensure the
protest would stay peaceful, said Luis Hernandez, a third-year
anthropology student and security guard for MEChA.

“We did accomplish some of our goals,” Sayed Shifa,
a second-year student said. “It proves (the rally) was
successful. We didn’t come out here just to shout. But there
is still more to do. It’s a struggle; we still need to build
it up.”

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