California has had a ban on considering race and gender for admission to public colleges and universities for over a decade, thanks to Proposition 209 approved by voters in 1996 (this proposition also bans affirmative action policies in employment and contracting). Since then, the enrollment of students of color at the state’s schools has plummeted, and opponents of the ban are challenging the ban this week in court.
Although Prop 209 has faced numerous challenges that have all failed, its opponents now have the support of recent court decisions as well as that of Governor Jerry Brown, and are optimistic about bringing race and gender considerations back to the admissions process.
The attorneys for the plaintiff argued that the current system violates minority students’ civil rights and “is a new form of separate and unequal going on right before our eyes.” Those in favor of upholding the ban say it “guarantees everyone’s right to be treated fairly and not be discriminated against based on skin color or gender.” Each argument sounds like a different way of saying the same thing, but a look at the discrepancy between California’s population demographics and that of the state’s more elite schools does show that black and brown people are considerably underrepresented; while half of the state’s population is black, Latino, or Native American, UC Berkley is 48% Asian, 3.5% black, and 15% Latino.
It’s clear that historically oppressed groups won’t be represented in higher education without some form of intervention, but is affirmative action the answer?
Read more at The Huffington Post.