UC files brief in support of race-based admissions policies

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UC President Mark Yudof and the chancellors of all 10 UC campuses submitted a “friend of the court” brief Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring support for the University of Texas at Austin in a contentious case challenging the use of race in undergraduate admissions.

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, involves a white student who claims that the university racially discriminated against her due to its policy of considering race in the admission process. The UC’s amicus curiae brief establishes the UC’s support for UT Austin and its acknowledgement of race in undergraduate admissions.

Currently, however, the UC system does not acknowledge race in its own admissions decisions due to the 1996 passage of Proposition 209, which made it illegal for state-funded institutions to consider factors such as race or ethnicity in admissions or hiring decisions.

“The facts tell us the educational and societal benefits from a diverse student body cannot be realized fully at the nation’s largest highly selective university system without the judicious use of tools that take race into account during undergraduate admissions decisions,” said UC President Mark Yudof about the UC in a press release. “Telling that story is the appropriate thing to do in the context of this legal case.”

The brief, titled “The Limited and Disappointing Results of the University’s Race-Neutral Admissions Initiatives,” describes the UC system’s failure to maintain a racially diverse student body due to race-neutral admissions policies instituted under Prop. 209.

Although the UC has adopted numerous strategies to address the issue of race in higher education, none have “enabled the University of California fully to reverse the precipitous decline in minority admission and enrollment that followed the enactment of Prop. 209, nor to keep pace with the growing population of underrepresented minorities in the applicant pool of qualified high school graduates,” according to the brief.

This sentiment was echoed by Hans Johnson, Bren policy fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and expert on demographics and education projections.

“Many people within the (UC system) have struggled with Prop. 209 and want to ensure that underrepresented groups have a place in the University of California,” he said. “It has been a challenge since Prop. 209 to have the undergraduate student (population) fully reflect the diversity of California.”

Joyce Schon, an attorney for BAMN, an activist organization that promotes affirmative action and racial equality among other causes, said the UC is correct in its assertion that racial disparities can only be addressed through the acknowledgement of race in the admissions process.

“We agree with the UC president and chancellors that taking race into account is an essential component for increasing diversity in the UC system, especially at the flagship schools, UCLA and UC Berkeley,” she said. “However, these administrators should stop using Prop 209 as an excuse for wholesale denial of thousands of Latina/o, black and Native American students for an equal opportunity at UC.”

BAMN has filed an amicus curiea brief of its own in support of University of Texas at Austin and its use of race in admission decisions.

View the University of Texas at Austin court brief here as well as the UC amicus curiae brief: