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Critiquing affirmative action

By Audrey Kuo and Joanne Hou

Nov. 5, 2007 9:35 pm

Eleven years after the passage of Proposition 209, students gathered on Monday to hear a panel present divergent perspectives on affirmative action.

Proposition 209 was passed in 1996 and banned the use of affirmative action in public employment and higher education.

The event featured three speakers: former regent Ward Connerly, Professor Richard Sander from the UCLA School of Law and Peter Schwartz of the Ayn Rand Institute.

The speakers critiqued the use of race to give preferential treatment.

Connerly said he does not support affirmative action because it treats people differently based on their skin color. He argued against any preferential treatment based on factors such as race, sexuality and ancestry.

Schwartz said he believes race is irrelevant in evaluating a person because it is something one cannot control.

“(Affirmative action) does not judge people on what they deserve: their abilities,” Schwartz said.

Though Sander said he feels race-conscious policies can be effective, he qualified this by saying that giving preference to social groups in college admissions may not have positive results.

Sander presented his empirical research, which he argued shows that students who received preferential treatment for school admissions can suffer a “mismatch” effect.

He cited studies of elite colleges that show while 45 percent of black and Latino students enter college as science students, only 10 to 15 percent actually graduate in a science major.

Sander said students who have experienced preferential treatment are less able to compete with other students, dropping out of science majors as a result.

“If these people can’t compete academically, then it is not a good idea,” Sander said.

While all the panelists argued against affirmative action based on race, Sander and Connerly said they support the consideration of socioeconomic factors.

Connerly said it would be beneficial for someone whose parents did not go to college to be admitted to institutions of higher education because it brings about a big difference in perspectives.

Sander said considering socioeconomic situations in admissions is not legally problematic and can provide a genuine diversity of people from different social and economic situations.

He said it is appropriate to help people in low-income families move up socially.

“Education is supposed to be a route of social mobility,” Sander said.

Connerly’s visit to the UCLA campus drew protest from By Any Means Necessary, a coalition created at UC Berkeley in 1995 to fight for affirmative action.

“It’s really outrageous that (Connerly and Sander) can come on campus to commemorate the anniversary of Proposition 209 when this campus has been so detrimentally affected,” said Adam Lerman, a city organizer for the coalition.

“Young people in this city are not going to accept being relegated to second-class universities,” Lerman said.

In the half hour leading up to the protest, the organizers and about 30 high school students expressed their discontent with the panel.

Alma Soriano, a senior at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and an organizer of the event, was involved in bringing fellow classmates to the protest.

“Minorities are able to make the same achievements as white students,” said Soriano. She added that she is directly affected as a student that has benefited from a voluntary integration program.

“We can’t just sit and watch our country go backward after the Civil Rights Movement,” Soriano said.

The high school students were also joined by a handful of UCLA students. Alejandra Cruz, a second-year law student, has been working on campus to increase support for the protest effort.

“As black and Latino students, we shouldn’t be made to feel that we don’t belong here, that we’re inferior. We shouldn’t have to take these racist attacks,” Cruz said.

The protesters attended the forum and at times hissed and yelled. There were no security issues, and the event continued despite the interruptions.

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