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Civil Rights Project Issues Policy Brief, California: A Case Study in the Loss of Affirmative Action

Date Published: August 08, 2012

This brief reviews the various efforts undertaken by the University of California to maintain diversity in the institution, and especially at its highly competitive flagship campuses, UCLA and Berkeley, in the face of the loss of affirmative action during the mid-1990s.
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"The case coming before the Supreme Court this fall, Fisher v UT Austin, provides the opportunity for the justices to reaffirm the critical importance of making opportunity available for all of our youth in order to create a stronger nation,” states Gándara. “This policy report shows that that goal would be undermined by following California's path."

This brief demonstrates the continuing decline in representation of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in spite of efforts by the University of California, even as URMs have become the majority of all students in the state. 

Although applications to these flagship campuses have doubled since 1995, and all groups have seen reductions in the percent of applicants offered admission, African American and Latino student admittees have been reduced by 70 to 75 percent at UCLA and UC Berkeley, compared to just 35 and 40 percent for Asian and white applicants. 

This disproportionate decline reflects the inequalities in the California educational system that fails to prepare African American, Native American and Latino students for highly competitive selection processes irrespective of their intellectual ability or likelihood of succeeding in their studies.

To read the Policy Brief, go to:


About the Civil Rights Project

Founded in 1996 by former Harvard professors Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley, Jr., the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles is now co-directed by Orfield and Patricia Gándara, professors at UCLA. Its mission is to create a new generation of research in social science and law, on the critical issues of civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States. It has commissioned more than 450 studies, published 14 books, including five on access to higher education, and issued numerous reports from authors at universities and research centers across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding affirmative action, cited the Civil Rights Project’s research.

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