End Race-Based Admissions, UC Regent Suggests
Just weeks after Gov. Pete Wilson called on the state to end race- and gender-based preferences in hiring, one of his appointees to the University of California Board of Regents on Thursday called on the university to do the same when it comes to admissions.
In a highly personal appeal that some regents praised as courageous, Regent Ward Connerly told the board that he believes the university currently weights gender and race too heavily in its admissions decisions. By June, he said, he will seek to propose an alternative system that would put an end to race-based preferences in university hiring and admissions.
“Make no mistake--we would not be here today as basically an integrated society if we had not embarked on affirmative action in 1965. I can’t tell you the humiliation of drinking from a fountain that says ‘Colored Only,’ ” said Connerly, one of two African Americans among the 18 appointed members of the board. “But I tell you with every fiber of my being that what we’re doing is inequitable to certain people. . . . I want something in its place that is fair.”
Currently, it is the regents’ policy that the university enroll a student body that represents the cultural, racial, economic and social diversity of the state of California. Admission decisions are made based upon academic criteria as well as geographic location, ethnicity, gender and special talents or experience. No student is supposed to be admitted on the basis of race alone.
But Connerly told the regents’ special committee on affirmative action policies that he believes that the policy is not working--that race and ethnicity have come to overshadow other qualifications.
“We are relying on race and ethnicity not as one of many factors but as a dominant factor to the exclusion of all others,” he said. “To those who say, ‘Affirmative action now, affirmative action forever as it is now'--that’s what George Wallace said about segregation.”
Connerly’s proposal comes at a time when affirmative action programs are under attack in California. Assemblyman Bernie Richter (R-Chico) has proposed a constitutional amendment to disallow the use of race and gender preferences in hiring for state jobs and in admissions at state-run colleges. The proposed California Civil Rights Initiative has a similar goal.
Connerly, a Sacramento land use consultant appointed by Wilson to the Board of Regents in 1993, says his proposal is independent of those other efforts.
“There is no conspiracy, no linkage, no nexus between us,” he said. “I took this position almost from the day I came onto the board.”
But the political climate was clearly on the minds of other regents Thursday, some of whom responded to Connerly’s proposal by recommending caution.
“Yes, the system is abused. Yes, we can do better. Yes, we have to make sure we get rid of something that looks like (and) acts like a quota,” said Regent William T. Bagley. “But if we do anything to imply we’re ending this system (that) I think is still needed, I think we’re sending the wrong signal.”
Regent Roy T. Brophy said that although he shared Connerly’s desire to ensure fairness, “this is the wrong arena and the wrong time. I think the University of California doesn’t have to be a leader in this particular action.”
Regent Meredith J. Khachigian agreed, but said the board may not have a choice.
“The train’s out of the station,” she said, lamenting what she called the divisive “social effects” of affirmative action policies. “We’ve created factions. We’ve created a racism by affirmative action that maybe wasn’t here before.”
Connerly asked UC President Jack W. Peltason to report on the university’s affirmative action programs by May 15. Connerly said he particularly wants to know how many employees are engaged in affirmative action duties and how those people might be redeployed.
Marion Timm, assistant executive vice chancellor for affirmative action at UC Irvine, said there are various affirmative action programs in place at the university, some focusing on employee hiring and others involving student admissions.
The employee program is mandated by the federal government, while the admissions program seeks to increase the representation of students from underrepresented ethnic groups, she said.
About 47% of the 16,443 students at UCI are Asian, 33% are white, 12% are Latino and 2% are black, according to fall 1994 figures. About 12% of UCI’s faculty members are Asian, 6% are Latino, 2% are black and 80% are white.
It is unclear how the proposal to end affirmative action would impact students or employees, Timm said.
“First of all, I don’t know if the UC regents have the authority to dismantle what’s put in place by the federal government,” she said. “I don’t know all the details of the proposal, but people seem to misinterpret what affirmative action is all about. It really isn’t set up to guarantee people jobs based on their ethnicity or gender.
“Unfortunately, part of the problem is how affirmative action programs were set up. They’re not very visionary. To run a good institution, you need to run an institution that has respect for everyone and encourages everyone to achieve to their fullest possible potential.”
In other business, university officials presented the board with a revised budget plan that calls for a 10% increase in undergraduate fees for the 1995-96 school year--a $380 hike that would bring the average total fees per student to $4,491 a year. The plan recommends similar fee increases for the following three years, with a third of the money set aside for financial aid.
Provost Walter E. Massey said the budget plan--which also calls for fee hikes for students in professional schools, lower-than-anticipated salary increases for staff and faculty and a $10-million annual savings through increased productivity--was a necessary response to the governor’s proposed four-year compact for education funding.
The governor’s budget, announced last week, would increase UC’s funding by 2% this year, and an average 4% during each of the next three years. The university had requested a 7.9% increase for this year.
State Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, attending her first meeting since becoming a member of the board, immediately spoke out against the fee increase, chiding her fellow regents for not wielding their influence on behalf of California students. She called on them to go on record opposing the governor’s proposed tax cut.
“You are some of the most powerful people in California and it isn’t enough just to send your lobbyist,” she said. “With all due respect, we are not merely pawns in the legislative game. We could influence the process profoundly if the regents would take a more active role.”
Several regents bristled at Eastin’s comments, but she was not alone in her opposition to the proposed fee increases. Noting that budget negotiations have just begun in the state Legislature, student Regent Terrence Wooten urged the board not to commit to a 10% fee hike too soon. And Regent David Flinn said he would not support the increase until he was satisfied that administrative costs have been sufficiently reduced.
“I’m not convinced we’ve done everything we can on the administrative side,” he said, adding that by his calculations, the $380 annual fee increase will mean the average student must work 66 more hours a semester to pay for college. As yet, he said, “My conscience won’t let me vote for them to do that.”
The regents are expected to vote on the proposed budget plan some time this spring.
* Times on Demand has assembled a package of stories, including a three-part series, on the affirmative action controversy. To order, call 808-8463 and press *8630. Select option 3 and order No. 5612. $5 plus $1 delivery. Mail only.
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The UC System’s Student Body
Here is a breakdown of the domestic student enrollment at University of California campuses for the fall term of 1994. Percentages are derived from those who gave their ethnicity and may not reflect 100% of the enrollment.
African American Asian Campus American Indian American Latino White Total* UC System 4.3% 1.0% 30.8% 12.4% 49.3% 151,356 Berkeley 5.6% 1.1% 34.7% 12.0% 43.7% 27,686 Davis 3.9% 1.3% 27.1% 10.3% 55.3% 21,102 Irvine 2.7% 0.6% 45.7% 12.3% 35.3% 15,910 Los Angeles 6.2% 1.0% 34.5% 14.5% 42.5% 31,863 Riverside 4.7% 0.7% 34.5% 15.8% 42.2% 8,354 San Diego 2.7% 0.9% 29.5% 11.4% 53.0% 16,697 San Francisco 4.5% 0.8% 32.4% 7.3% 54.6% 2,490 Santa Barbara 2.7% 0.9% 16.8% 10.9% 67.1% 17,277 Santa Cruz 2.8% 1.3% 15.1% 13.9% 64.8% 9,977
Asian American category also includes East Indian/Pakistani and Filipino American. Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.
*Includes students whose ethnicity is unknown or unstated.
Source: University of California