California: A Case Study in the Loss of Affirmative Action
This paper briefly 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. It demonstrates the continuing decline in representation of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in spite of these efforts, even as URMs have become the majority of all students in the state. Although applications to the flagship campuses have doubled since 1995, and all groups have seen reductions in the percent of applicants offered admission, African American and Latino 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. The consequences of continuing down the same path will likely result in the solidification of educational inequality and economic dislocations for the state.