UC files amicus curiae brief in support of affirmative action

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The University of California issued a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court today, urging it to strike down a Michigan voter initiative banning race-conscious admissions for state institutions, including public universities.

The amicus curiae brief addresses Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case regarding voter initiative Proposal 2, which banned consideration of race for admission to the state’s public universities in 2006. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit deemed the initiative unconstitutional in November. The Supreme Court will be evaluating that decision in October.

The UC system issued its brief in solidarity with the University of Michigan, according to a UC press release. Like those of Michigan, California’s public universities are limited to race-neutral admissions, due to the passage of Prop. 209 in 1996. Prop. 209 is a California ballot measure that prohibits the university from considering race, ethnicity or gender in admissions.

“More than fifteen years after Proposition 209 barred consideration of race in admissions decisions at public universities in California, the University of California still struggles to enroll a student body that encompasses the broad racial diversity of the State,” reads the brief.

The brief noted the decline of diversity at the UC system immediately after Prop. 209’s passage. The admission rate for underrepresented minority students dropped from 54.6 percent to 20.2 percent between 1995 and 1998, according to the brief.

It also claims that declining diversity on college campuses adversely affects underrepresented minority students.

“We feel it is incumbent upon us to inform the Court, and the nation, about our ceaseless efforts to enroll a student body that is reflective of our diverse citizenry,” said UC President Mark Yudof in a press statement. “We would hope, after 16 years of operating under Proposition 209, that we could report more success. But without the judicious use of tools such as affirmative action, we have been unable to do so.”

Libby Rainey is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rainey_l.