UC President Janet Napolitano says: “The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state.” Photo courtesy of University of California

The Board of Regents that oversees the 10 University of California campuses, which include UC San Diego, Monday unanimously endorsed a state constitutional amendment that would allow race and gender to once again be considered in admissions, citing the need to address systemic inequalities in education.

The amendment would repeal Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in 1996.

“There is amazing momentum for righting the wrongs caused by centuries of systemic racism in our country. The UC Board of Regents’ votes to endorse ACA 5 and to repeal Proposition 209 play a part in that effort,” said board Chair John A. Perez.

“As we continue to explore all the university’s opportunities for action, I am proud UC endorsed giving California voters the chance to erase a stain, support opportunity and equality, and repeal Proposition 209,” he said.

According to a statement issued by the board, Proposition 209 has challenged the university’s efforts to be fair and inclusive as it seeks to attract the best and brightest students from all backgrounds.

“It makes little sense to exclude any consideration of race in admissions when the aim of the university’s holistic process is to fully understand and evaluate each applicant through multiple dimensions,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “Proposition 209 has forced California public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state.”

The UC has aimed to increase diversity in a variety of ways while keeping admissions race-neutral, but the university system does not fully reflect the demographics of the state, according to the board, which noted that a diverse community deepens the educational experience.

The Assembly approved ACA5, an amendment which requires a two-thirds majority, on a 60-14 vote. It must pass the Senate with the same two-thirds margin before a June 25 deadline to make it onto the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

One of ACA5’s lead authors, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, said the UC’s support would help efforts to repeal existing law.

“The UC stepped up to help undo the catastrophic legacy of Proposition 209,” Santiago said. “Although we are the wealthiest and most diverse state in the nation, communities of color and women remain distressingly underrepresented in our public institutions. We need everyone to jump on the boat and row in the same direction. With the UC joining the fight to bring back equal opportunity to our communities, we are that much stronger to overturn Proposition 209.”

Backers of the No ACA5 campaign argue that the amendment itself is racist and say admissions should be colorblind. A change.org petition signed by more than 104,000 people contends that the measure will divide Californians.

“ACA-5 re-introduces racial presences, still a form of racial discrimination, into the state law. Therefore, it violates the U.S. Constitution. It will divide California and pit one group of citizens against another simply based on their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin,” the petition reads. “It will minimize the accomplishments of minority groups to a simple result of preferential treatment, a blow to their extraordinary hard work and sacrifice.”

A simple majority vote would be required to pass the amendment to repeal Proposition 209, which prohibits California from granting preferential treatment to — or discriminating against — any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.

Updated at 3:14 p.m. June 15, 2020

— City News Service

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