Proposition 16, which would have allowed the consideration of race and sex in public university admissions and state employment, failed in this year’s election, drawing criticism from student activists and community members of the UC system.
In a press release Wednesday, the UC Office of the President stated that Prop. 16 would have helped remedy the wide-reaching harm caused by Prop. 209, which banned such consideration, also known as affirmative action, in 1996. UC President Michael Drake said in the press release that Prop. 16’s failure was a setback for the university.
“UC remains steadfast in its commitment to attract and support a student body that reflects California’s dynamism and diversity, despite this setback,” Drake said in the press release. “We will continue our unwavering efforts to expand underrepresented groups’ access to a UC education.”
The UC Board of Regents previously supported ACA 5, the bill that would later become Prop. 16, according to the press release. The university will continue to use alternative approaches to address the lack of diversity on campuses, such as community outreach and using a “holistic” approach in college admissions.
Students for Prop. 16 co-chair Maureen Simmons said in an email that although she was disappointed in the outcome, she felt “invigorated.” Simmons added that Prop. 16 could have increased diversity on campus.
“My commitment to racial justice does not end here. For Black Americans, there is a legacy of systemic oppression and therefore I can not stop here,” Simmons said in the email. “I believe this opens the doors for innovative solutions to age-old problems. As long as Californians remain committed to equity and equality we can move forward.”
In a press release, UC Student Association President Aidan Arasasingham also expressed disappointment at the failure of Prop. 16. He added that affirmative action could have helped fight discrimination.
ASUC President Victoria Vera said what was more devastating for her was the large margin in which Prop. 16 was defeated. She added that Prop. 209 had decreased Black, Latinx and Indigenous representation not only in the student body but also in the faculty.
“It could help change representation throughout the state. Seeing someone that looks like you, I think that helps,” Vera said. “It’s really important that we recognize Black students’ labor for this. How do we propel their message forward for diversity and inclusion?”
Student activist Dominick Williams said in an email that despite disappointment at Prop. 16’s failure, he felt encouraged to continue pushing to repeal Prop. 209.
Williams added that many voters may have been confused about Prop. 16’s wording and context on the ballot.
“Proposition 16 is not quotas, it is not taking away opportunities from one group to give to another; and it does not legalize discrimination,” Williams said in the email. “It is justice, and we must do better to convey these important clarifications the next time around.”