Monday, June 29, 1998
Proposition 209 damages diversity
ADMISSIONS: Students, administrators concerned about enrollment
By Neal Narahara
Daily Bruin Contributor
The incoming freshman class is not likely to be remembered for
Although this year’s class is UCLA’s largest in 11 years – and
the strongest academically in UCLA history – declining admission
rates for underrepresented minorities have made it the center of
controversy for much of the university community.
Enrollment of underrepresented minorities has declined
significantly in the first year in which Proposition 209 and the UC
Regents’ policies SP-1 and SP-2 have taken effect.
This year, enrollment declined by 42 percent compared to last
year for African American applicants, 33 percent for Chicano and
Latino applicants, and 62 percent for Native American
"We knew what the (admissions) numbers were going to look like,
but when we saw the real numbers, it made me sick," said USAC
President Stacy Lee.
Out of 1,331 African American applicants, 280 were admitted,
down from 524 last year. Of those admitted, 131 have decided to
enroll, as opposed to 221 last year.
Numbers for other underrepresented minorities show similar
declines. 1,001 Chicano/Latino applicants were offered admission
this year, down from 1,512. Last year, 39 Native Americans enrolled
– this year, that number is 15.
Under SP-1, the university is barred from using race or
ethnicity as a consideration in admissions.
Proposition 209 was a California voter initiative passed in 1996
banning the use of race or gender preferences in state government
hiring, housing, contracting and education. The proposition passed
with 55 percent of California’s vote.
After numerous appeals, including those by the American Civil
Liberties Union, and the refusal of a hearing by the Supreme Court,
Proposition 209 became law. This proposition marked the end of
affirmative action admissions policies in all state-funded
Though the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals to Proposition
209, in a previous decision, Adarand Constructors vs. Pena, they
set the tone for the abolishment of affirmative action
"Affirmative action to help disadvantaged black people is no
better, morally or constitutionally, than racist laws intended to
subjugate them," read their decision in 1996.
Others, however, feel that diversity is as much a requirement
for a successful education as anything.
"Classes are enhanced by a diverse set of students who enter
with a multitude of perspectives," said Judy Baca, vice-chair of
the Cesar Chavez Center for Chicana and Chicano Studies.
"The academic community is greatly distressed at these low
numbers," said Carol Peterson, special assistant to the
These figures are even more significant when coupled with a
decline in applications from underrepresented minorities in the
1997-98 school year, which some say resulted from the anticipation
of the end of affirmative action.
"Essentially, we are privileging the privileged and putting out
a chilling effect to the minority population," Baca said. "People
are beginning to feel that they are unwelcome at educational
institutions like UCLA."
Both the undergraduate and graduate student councils have come
out in opposition to Proposition 209 and SP-1 and SP-2, passing
resolutions condemning the decisions.
Student groups such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de
Aztlan (MEChA) and the African Student Union (ASU), Asian Pacific
Coalition (APC) and the American Indian Students Association (AISA)
have been especially vocal in opposing the change in university
policy, joining with other student groups to form the Affirmative
Action Coalition (AAC).
The coalition held protests throughout the spring, culminating
in the takeover of Royce Hall on May 19, in which 88 student
protesters were arrested.
"It is clear that the administration is taking a relaxed
approach to a serious issue," said AAC Chair Chad Williams.
In response to the lower admission rates, the coalition has
demanded a statement from the administration against Proposition
209, as well as increased funds for programs designed to reach out
to underrepresented high school students.
When asked about his position on Proposition 209, Chancellor
Albert Carnesale replied that his position was irrelevant, because
it is not in his power to work outside the law.
"I will not break the law," Carnesale said.
In response to the decline in admissions of underrepresented
minorities, the university, in conjunction with the Academic
Advancement Program and the Alumni Association, have expanded
outreach efforts to the underrepresented minorities that were
"We want to do whatever we can to let (underrepresented
minorities) know that UCLA wants them here," said Dana Valentino,
director of the outreach program at the Alumni Association.
However, protesting students feel that those efforts aren’t
"At this point, there is a sentiment among the students that the
university is not committed to our issues," Williams said.
There is not universal campus support for the return of
affirmative action, however.
The student groups Bruin Republicans and Young Americans for
Freedom are among the opponents of affirmative action.
In 1996, the student group Bruin Republicans hung a banner
across Bruin Walk reading, "Bruin Republicans thank UCLA for
Affirming Fairness – Yes on 209."
Despite California’s ruling on Proposition 209, affirmative
action is not a dead issue. Other policies similar to Proposition
209 are being challenged in other states.
If the Supreme Court chooses to uphold affirmative action over
decisions made in state courts, race and gender considerations
could once again be used in admissions.