Sunday, August 18

Students and BAMN coalition file lawsuit against Proposition 209

On Feb. 16, a lawsuit was filed to reverse Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action within the state.

The lawsuit was filed by Latino, black and Native American students along with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.

The coalition argues that Proposition 209 violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to a statement from the coalition.

The official complaint states the plaintiffs are denied “the chance for an equal and integrated education as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education and the proudest legal traditions of California and of the nation.”

The defendants in the case are Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the UC Board of Regents and University of California President Mark Yudof.

Steve Montiel, a UC Office of the President spokesman, said there was little they could say on the case this early in the process.

“It’s the law. If this opens up another discussion, that’s well and good, but, as long as Proposition 209 is the law, we’re obliged to follow it,” Montiel said.

Introduced by former UC Regent Ward Connerly, Proposition 209 was passed in 1996 by 54 percent of participating California voters.

The coalition, By Any Means Necessary, was founded to combat it, focusing on the defense of affirmative action.

Immediately after the proposition’s passage, a lawsuit was filed against it and failed.

Because so much time has elapsed, Monica Smith, By Any Means Necessary coalition attorney, believes the plaintiffs may reach a different outcome this time around.

“One thing that’s different is we see the effects. The other side claims there are other ways to possibly get more integration, but none of those ways have actually worked,” Smith said.

The UC, however, does not share the same mindset.

Montiel said equal representation of underrepresented students is something the UC has been addressing through its academic preparation programs, which help underrepresented students meet the admissions requirements.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure the widest possible access to UC for all applicants ““ through the Blue and Gold program and other student aid initiatives,” Montiel said.

Legally compelled to disregard race and ethnicity in the process of evaluating applications, UCLA adopted a holistic approach in 2007, which appoints one reader to each application.

Because the application is no longer evaluated by section, readers can now give a qualitative assessment of a student’s eligibility.

Context is significantly taken into consideration, and disadvantaged groups are given a more accurate evaluation for admission.

Jose Valenzuela, second-year political science student and coalition member, fails to see eye to eye with such arguments and stressed his concern for the reinstatement of affirmative action.

Valenzuela said the UCs should be representative of the state’s population, and he said this is not the case yet on UCLA’s campus.

Whether the current figures are at the levels they should be is an issue that has not yet been resolved.

The UC official Web site provides statistics that show a slight increase in the number of underrepresented students admitted to the UCs since 2000, including UCLA.

Cases have arisen regarding affirmative action, one of the most significant being Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), when Allan Bakke, a UC Davis Medical School applicant, was rejected for the second time and accused the school of “reverse discrimination.”

The court ruled in Bakke’s favor, deeming quota systems unconstitutional.

In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), however, By Any Means Necessary’s efforts countered Michigan’s previous ban on affirmative action, and the group is hoping to do the same in the case against Proposition 209, Smith said.

Smith added that the coalition’s ultimate goal is to deem the proposition unconstitutional at the Supreme Court, something they have been striving toward for 13 years since Proposition 209′s enactment.

Smith said some high schools are completely made up of underrepresented students, and a miniscule portion of these students gain admittance into UCs because they are at huge disadvantages.

Valenzuela said more wealthy families receive forms of college preparation that underrepresented students do not.

“I feel that it’s unacceptable that they don’t have the opportunities that others have just because of the areas that they’re born in,” Valenzuela said.

Both Smith and Valenzuela agreed that problems of race discrimination and equal representation would not instantaneously disappear.

Smith thinks the lawsuit’s success is an attainable outcome.

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