Approximately two dozen affirmative action supporters and high school students gathered on Sproul Plaza Friday afternoon to raise awareness of minority student enrollment in a press conference organized by activist group BAMN.
BAMN leaders, UC Berkeley students and high school seniors spoke against Proposition 209, which prohibits state institutions, including the UC system, from considering race, sex or ethnicity in employment or enrollment, according to BAMN attorney Ronald Cruz.
“There are so many people like me, minorities, Latinos, African Americans who (have been) fighting the odds their whole life,” said Bianca Woodward, a high school senior who is currently appealing her rejection from the university. “Denying them admission to a school like UC Berkeley is to deny themselves and the community and school the possibility to foster a new generation of leaders who more accurately represent the community.”
Cruz claims that since Prop. 209 passed in 1996, there has been a significant drop in Hispanic, black and American Indian students being admitted to UC Berkeley. Yvette Felarca, a coordinator for BAMN in Northern California, said she hopes activists’ efforts will help change the admission process for the UC system and that the university will double admission numbers for underrepresented minority students.
“One of the things that is clearly a challenge here is that we don’t have an opportunity to know the race or ethnicity or gender as we read the applications,” said Amy Jarich, UC Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions. “We have a long way to go, so we need to keep working with our partners.”
California freshman applicants admitted to UC Berkeley for fall 2013 have an ethnic composition that is nearly identical to those of previous years, even as campus groups and the university continue to push for greater minority inclusion.
While black, Hispanic and American Indian people constituted 32.1 percent of California residents applying to UC Berkeley, they make up 22 percent of admitted students, according to data released by the UC Office of the President last week. Last year, the same groups made up 30.9 percent of the resident applicant pool and saw comparable admissions numbers.
This is the second year BAMN has organized to support affirmative action. According to Felarca, the organization helped 15 minority students gain admission to the university after they appealed.
“(This demonstration) shows the power of the movement,” said high school senior Sidney Adebayo, who is appealing his rejection. “When the admission office makes their decision on all the many thousands of students, they make it based on a piece of paper, but they really don’t know the student very well. They don’t even know his personality (or) what he’s accomplished.”
Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected].