In light of bake sale, renewed controversy surrounds legality of SB 185

With national uproar sparked by a bake sale set to descend Tuesday on Sproul Plaza, the root of the issue might go overlooked — SB 185, a piece of affirmative action-like legislation currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

The constitutionality of the bill — which would allow the UC and CSU to consider factors such as race, gender, geographical origin and household income in student admissions — has been questioned due to its similarity to affirmative action.

Opponents of the bill — authored by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina — say it goes against Proposition 209. The proposition, approved by voters in 1996, effectively ended the use of affirmative action by forbidding preferential treatment for any student on the basis of race, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

The bill must be signed or vetoed by Oct. 9, according to Brown spokesperson Evan Westrup.

Much of the controversy now surrounding SB 185 relates to whether being able to “consider” race and other factors in a student’s admission would be the same as giving a student “preferential treatment.”

Pedro Salcido, senior district representative for Hernandez, said the bill would not be unconstitutional because “affirmative action in its pure definition calls for some type of preferential treatment and additional weight given.”

“This bill doesn’t call for that at all,” he added. “It just permits the university to include (those factors) in the admissions process. If you’re going to implement a holistic admissions process for the university, it should be a factor.”

According to UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez, under current law, students applying to the UC system  report details regarding their race, household income and national origin. However, this information is used for statistical purposes only and is blocked from view to those who review university applications for admission.

Ward Connerly — former UC Regent, president of the American Civil Rights Coalition and considered by many to be a driving force behind Proposition 209 — has stated several times that he strongly opposes the bill due to questions of legality.

“If you don’t care about the constitution, then you go ahead and pass this,” he said. “But if you do care about the constitution, then it shouldn’t be at the governor’s desk. Sen. Hernandez is thumbing his nose at the will of the people.”

Connerly also said that if Brown does sign the bill, he thinks its passage would result in a multitude of lawsuits brought against the state regarding SB 185’s legality, which California cannot afford.

However, according to Salcido, Hernandez’s office has had the bill reviewed by attorneys and the judiciary committee, all of whom believe SB 185 conforms with state and federal law.

Last year as a state assemblyman, Hernandez introduced AB 2047, a similar bill which was vetoed on Sept. 30, 2010, by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger over questions of its legality.

UC spokesperson Steve Montiel said the UC Office of the President will not produce a formal opinion on the bill.

“Despite the significant concerns of legality in its implementation, we support its underlying goal and would welcome additional tools to achieve a more diverse student body — but we are neutral,” he said.

Jessica Rossoni covers higher education.

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  • Zippydoodaa

    Sign the petition against SB 185!

  • Anonymous

    Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) of University of California Berkeley displaces qualified
    for public university education at Cal. Californians for $50,600  payment by FOREIGN students.


    The University
    of California Berkeley,
    ranked # 70 Forbes, is not increasing enrollment.  $50,600 tuition FOREIGN students are accepted
    by Birgeneau at the expense of qualified instate students.


    UC Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof agree discriminating
    against instate Californians for admission to UC Berkeley. Birgeneau, Yudof, Lansing need to answer to


    Your opinion makes a difference; email UC Board of
    Regents   [email protected]

  • Anonymous

     What does ‘consider’ mean? If race or ethnicity is ‘considered’ in the usual sense of the word, it means race and ethnicity would affect who gets admitted, that preferences/discrimination based upon those criteria would be used. That violates the prohibition against that in our state constitution.

  • Anonymous

    The very basic point:Bias by race = racismThere is no such thing as reverse discrimination. Its just called discrimination period.
    So if the bake sale discriminationg by race bothers you, why dont other policies that are bias by race bother you?!

    While I agree that demographically some areas where some students may have more challenges in life should be looked at, race should never be considered. Why? Because its racist.

    • jpmoneypants

      I agree.  The term “reverse racism” is moronic.  Reverse racism is racial indifference or tolerance.  I hate that term.  People just mean racism against white people (or in this case Asians) but from some reason, want a softer term than racism.  Its ridiculous, and the idea of changing a term due to the race of the person your talking about IS IN ITSELF RACIAL!!

  • We are supposed to teach our children that everyone is equal not matter their skin color or gender, Yet we have people thinking laws like this are OK. In the real world you have the rich and the poor, The poor are not a single race and there are more and more low income people everyday in this economy. To bring race into and issue that is about the haves and have nots is ridiculous

  • Perspective

    So just curious, what reason is there to collect data for use in admissions, if it is not to be used for preferential treatment (aka choosing one person over another)? Wouldn’t by definition using race, gender, ect… to make a decision in admissions (even if just in certain cases) providing preferential treatment?

    • Noemail

      you are being too practical for liberals…will be interesting to see if the ACLU jumps in on this.

      • The ACLU tends to look the other way if they think it only tramples the rights of white people.  Here is what I don’t understand, We are supposed to teach our children that everyone is equal not matter their skin color or gender yet we have people thinking laws like this are OK.   In the real world you have the rich and the poor,  The poor are not a single race and there are more and more low income people everyday in this economy.  To bring race into and issue that is about the haves and have nots in ridiculous