Berkeley High student, protesters claim UC Berkeley admissions discriminate against minorities

Berkeley High senior Aillen Zazueta-Bella, on the right, speaks about her UC Berkeley application appeal.
Kevin Foote/Senior Staff
Berkeley High senior Aillen Zazueta-Bella, on the right, speaks about her UC Berkeley application appeal.

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A local high school student and demonstrators held a sparsely attended press conference in front of Sproul Hall Sunday against UC Berkeley admissions, which they claim discriminate against qualified underrepresented minority students.

Berkeley High School senior Aillen Zazueta-Bella, who received a rejection letter from the campus, said she belongs at UC Berkeley and plans to appeal her admissions decision. She was joined by members of the activist group BAMN and the Defend Affirmative Action Party — a student political party running candidates in the ASUC elections.

The conference followed a Friday occupation of the campus registrar’s office that was organized by BAMN and the Defend Affirmative Action Party to demand that the campus double the number of underrepresented minority students enrolled for the fall 2012 freshman class. Both events occurred on the heels of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision last Monday to reject a lawsuit challenging Proposition 209, which upheld the California voter-based ban on considering race as a factor in UC admissions.

Having maintained a 3.85 unweighted GPA and extracurricular commitments, Zazueta-Bella said she was “shocked” that she was not accepted at her first-choice university.

“I’m not just standing here for my specific situation but also for others in my situation,” she said. “I was disappointed and surprised that I didn’t get in … but I still believe in public education.”

Members of BAMN and the Defend Affirmative Action Party held signs asking to “double underrepresented minority student enrollment at UC Berkeley” and advocated Zazueta-Bella’s case as one of many facing disadvantaged black, Latino and American Indian students.

Tania Kappner, a teacher from Oakland Technology, said many minority students are discouraged from applying to college given their acceptance rates.

“This campus should look like California,” she said of affirmative action in public education.

Zazueta-Bella said her parents were on their way to the campus’s admissions office when they ran into the Friday occupation by BAMN and the Defend Affirmative Action Party, who then took up her cause.

“We are very proud to meet Aillen and fight for her,” said BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca.

Weiru Fang covers Berkeley communities.