Affirmative action under renewed debate

In 1996, voters in California made it illegal to consider race in deciding who is admitted to state colleges and universities by approving Proposition 209. But there is a proposed constitutional amendment, ACA 5, that wants to restore affirmative action (“Ward Connerly Rides Again,” The Wall Street Journal, June 2).

Today’s opponents of restoring affirmative action are primarily Asians, who would be the ones disproportionately penalized. The truth is that they would overwhelmingly constitute the student body at colleges and universities if objective criteria were the sole basis for admission.  But it isn’t.

SCOTUS has sent confusing messages on the subject of racial discrimination in academia.  On one hand, the high court has said that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.” Yet it has also said that diversity is a worthy goal, which has allowed schools to artificially cap the number of Asians admitted. The Ivies once did the same thing with Jewish applicants.  Apparently, racial preferences refuse to die.

It’s hard to predict the outcome, but sentiment in California has changed because the state is now more diverse, with people of color now the majority.  As a result, voters may decide to restore affirmative action.  If they do, they will pit ethnic groups against each other, further exacerbating relationships going forward.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)



2 Replies to “Affirmative action under renewed debate”

  1. I’d support zero weight for race. OK to give weight for low-income or gender (colleges have compelling interest in ensuring that male/female ratios do not get too one-sided). OK to give weight to geography, but not if this is a substitute for race.


  2. Labor Lawyer: I agree. SCOTUS has sent mixed messages about affirmative action. In 2007, Justice Roberts said the way to end it is to stop considering it. Yet in 1977, Justice Blackmun said that the way to treat some persons equally is to treat them differently. How’s that for double talk?


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