The question of whether affirmative action policies should be implemented once again by the University of California was hotly debated between ASUC Senator Solomon Nwoche and ASUC presidential hopeful David Douglass in front of approximately 50 audience members at Moffitt Library Friday evening.
Douglass, who is running for ASUC president as a member of the Defend Affirmative Action Party, fought in favor of reimplementing such policies. His main debate strategy was to provide a historical foundation for the “militancy, strength and expression of independent power” of the people who helped create affirmative action policies in the first place.
“This debate is historic,” Douglass said in an interview before the debate. “We have been building the movement since the attacks on affirmative action have been happening since the late 1990s in California.”
On the other hand, Nwoche, ASUC senator from the Independent Campaign for Common Sense party, was against affirmative action policies and advocated instead to fix California’s K-12 system to give everybody an equal shot of getting admitted into college, regardless of race.
“What we should be doing is reforming the K-12 system, so they won’t need affirmative action in the first place,” Nwoche said.
Their debate comes amid conversations at the state level about a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal parts of Proposition 209 — a 1996 initiative that prohibited affirmative action policies at state institutions — and allow higher education systems to consider race, sex or ethnicity in admission, recruitment and retention programs.
While Douglass argued that students of color should be admitted to universities with affirmative action because “white privilege was oppressing them,” Nwoche pointed out that due to such disadvantages, such students put in a challenging environment like the UC system might have a challenging educational experience.
The audience at the debate was largely in favor of Douglass’ stance on affirmative action. The majority of attendees were members of the activist organization By Any Means Necessary, of which Douglass is an organizer.
Though they represented opposing sides of the argument, Douglass and Nwoche are friends and have discussed holding this debate since October. They both said they believed the dialogue of affirmative action policies needs to be more open and discussed by the wider community.