Colleges May Limit Policies on Minorities : Affirmative action: Approval of a proposal before the state community college board would affect hiring, business contracts and programs.


Ventura County’s three community colleges would restrict affirmative action policies affecting hiring, business contracts and programs for minority students, under a proposal before the state community college board next week.

Following the lead of California’s top universities, the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges will consider the restrictions at a meeting Wednesday in Ventura.

Unlike the UC Board of Regents policy adopted in July, however, recommendations by the community college board’s attorneys would not affect student admissions because the schools are required by law to accept all qualified applicants.


If the proposal is approved, campuses in Ventura County would keep their affirmative action officers, but eliminate a set of hiring goals based strictly on race, gender or ethnic background. Programs established for minority students would be open to all students--a policy already in effect informally on campuses here.

Administrators at the local college district--which includes Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges--greeted the proposal warmly.

“I think what they’ve done here is they’ve taken a reasonable approach without just saying ‘we’re not going to do this anymore,’ ” said Jerry Pauley, Ventura district vice chancellor of human resources and affirmative action.

Efforts to change the policies predate Gov. Pete Wilson’s recent push to eliminate affirmative action in state government, said state Chancellor David Mertes. “We went into a deliberate process,” Mertes said. “We’ve had policies in place for a long time. We decided to review them to see if they’re in sync with recent court rulings.”

The Supreme Court has recently narrowed the parameters of affirmative action, and Wilson has sued several agencies, including the community college board, to end preferential treatment for minorities and women.

Despite the proposed policy changes, Ventura County campuses will not abandon their commitment to a diverse faculty and staff, said district Chancellor James Walker. “We monitor the policy every step of the way and we’re not going to change that,” he said. “We want to maintain it. We don’t want to slip backward.”


But the new rules would bring an end to hiring goals set strictly by racial and ethnic groups. Instead, preferential treatment would be given only to groups that are deemed “significantly underrepresented” on the school’s faculty and staff.

“What we’re going to have to do is sit down and figure out who’s significantly underrepresented,” Pauley said. “The only way it wouldn’t be more work is if we found out everyone was represented, and that’s not the case.”

The college district could also lose the state funding it receives--about $27,000 annually--for meeting minority hiring goals, although the money could still come through a different program.

On contracts, minority and women bidders would receive preferential consideration only when there is a proven history of discrimination, under the policy recommended.

For students, the new rules would not change admissions standards, which open the community colleges to anyone who is 18 with a high school diploma, general equivalency degree or a demonstrated interest in the school.

But the policy could influence programs geared toward minority groups.

The rules would allow a district to design a program for a specific group, but the district would have to open and advertise it to all students, regardless of race.


Certain programs for low-income and disabled people would be exempt. But programs such as Puente--which pairs Latino students statewide with Latino business leaders--would be open to all students under the new guidelines.

Although Ventura district officials say they already informally opened all programs to all students, other districts have come under fire for sponsoring clubs and classes for minority specific groups.

A white student sued San Bernardino Valley College in March, claiming she was ordered out of a class because she was not African American. The lawsuit also named the Puente program and the Bridge program--which is aimed at African Americans--saying they were discriminatory.

In another case, Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana tried to restrict algebra courses to Latinas, but refrained after other students complained.

Board member Yvonne Gallegos Bodle said plans to open such courses and programs to all students are just a legal dance by the board.

“I personally don’t feel there’s anything wrong with trying to help certain ethnic groups, especially when there has been a pattern of discrimination,” Bodle said. “I think just to cover themselves they’ve said that anyone can enroll.”


The state board directed the chancellor’s office to examine the affirmative action policies in March, as the issue gained political momentum.

Since then, UC regents have overturned their policy, and Wilson has directed state boards to abolish racial preferences and filed the lawsuit.

The Board of Governors will consider the reforms to affirmative action policies at a meeting Wednesday at the Ventura County Community College District, where state trustees are gathering to honor the late Thomas Lakin, who was chancellor of the district when he died last November. The board will vote Thursday.