The debate surrounding affirmative action is in full swing as the Supreme Court considers Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. The University of North Carolina.
Due to California state law, UC Berkeley cannot consider race and gender in its admissions, so the Supreme Court ruling will not directly affect campus, according to dean of undergraduate admissions Femi Ogundele.
In an amicus brief for the Supreme Court case, the UC system noted its historical and present relevance in the national debate about race-conscious admissions policies.
Since California passed Proposition 209 in 1996, universities in the UC system have been prohibited from using race, ethnicity or sex in public education admissions, according to the the University of California Office of the President website.
“We are one of the first test cases for removing affirmative action from everything, from the whole levels of government and the UC system was one of the first education systems to have that experience,” said Bailey Henderson, ASUC External Affairs Vice President.
According to the amicus brief, freshman enrollees from underrepresented minority groups dropped by 50% or more at UC’s “most selective” campuses following the passage of Proposition 209.
According to Henderson, after Prop. 209 went into effect, the diversity in the UC and California State University systems declined, noting a decrease from 8% to 3% in Black students at UC Berkeley over the course of one year. Ogundele said the campus has still not reached pre-Prop. 209 numbers for Black students.
Although it does not use affirmative action in its admissions process, campus does use holistic review, in which it considers factors of life circumstances such as income, first-generation status and disadvantaged social or educational environments, according to the UC admissions website.
According to Ogundele, campus uses a four-pronged approach to increase diversity without the help of affirmative action through addressing resource gaps, being intentional in yield, developing equity-centered evaluation practices and making sure its recruitment reflects its values.
“I would say that what I am learning is that there is no alternative to being able to consider race and gender. It is not there. I say that as someone committed to diversity,” Ogundele said.
Student Academic Preparation and Education Partnership Partnerships, or SAPEP, also attempt to increase diversity in the student body without the use of affirmative action, Henderson noted. The programs consist of outreach to middle- and high-school students to provide information and aid in the college application process.
While such outreach programs can increase diversity, Henderson noted that they require state and university funding, which is not always assured. He added that affirmative action is a better safeguard of diversity in terms of the application process.
“It’s about just making sure that those underserved, underrepresented communities get access to the same information that more affluent communities tend to,” Henderson said.