Bill allowing UC to consider race, gender passes state Assembly committee

A bill that would allow UC and CSU schools to consider factors such as gender, race and economic status in undergraduate and graduate admissions decisions passed through the state Assembly’s higher education committee in a 5-3 vote July 5.

Senate Bill 185, authored by state Senator Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, has brought a great amount of controversy regarding its legality. According to Pedro Salcido, senior district representative for Hernandez, the bill hopes to increase the number of qualified minority students — particularly African Americans and Latinos — who are accepted into the state’s university systems.

“Overall, the purpose of the bill is to create an education system that represents a diverse demographic,” Salcido said. “We want to produce a diverse workforce that represents the overall demographic of California.”

Salcido added that the bill will also allow UC and CSU campuses to consider factors such as race, gender and economic status when creating outreach, recruitment and retention programs.

Last year as an assembly member, Hernandez proposed a similar assembly bill which would have authorized UC and CSU campuses to consider geographic origin, household income, race, gender, ethnicity and national origin in admissions decisions. However, that bill was vetoed when it came before former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Hernandez’s current bill has raised concern regarding the legality of affirmative action in admissions decisions. The passage of Proposition 209 in 1996 illegalized preferential treatment for any student on the basis of race, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

The American Civil Rights Coalition strongly opposes SB 185 for being in violation of the proposition. Ward Connerly, president of the coalition and former UC Regent, said the bill is unconstitutional and a waste of time and money.

“I think it’s not so ingenuous that somebody can’t see that they are trying to get past Proposition 209 — it has already been vetoed before,” Connerly said in reference to Hernandez’s earlier assembly bill. “I don’t understand why we would want to inject the state into legal battles and cause it to spend money it doesn’t have to defend a bill that shouldn’t have been passed in the first place.”

Connerly added that the UC system has adapted well without implementing factors such as race into admissions.

“Why would anyone want to go back to the days where we distinguished by race?” he said. “Why would we want to inject that into the admissions?”

According to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, the university will remain neutral on this bill, as they did on the prior assembly bill.

“Despite the significant concerns with legality and implementation of the bill, we support its underlying goal and would welcome additional tools to achieve a more diverse student body,” Montiel said.