University of California-Berkeley faculty group joins student effort to get new affirmative action measure on 2000 ballot
Berkeley, Calif. A group of University of California-Berkeley
faculty members — alarmed about plunging admissions of African
Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos in the aftermath of
California’s Proposition 209 — are the latest group to urge passage of
a new, student-authored measure called the Equal Educational
Opportunity Initiative (EEOI).
EEOI seeks to mitigate the anti-diversity consequences of
Proposition 209, which wiped out affirmative action at California’s
public institutions, including the University of California. The
initiative reads: “In order to provide equal opportunity, promote
diversity, and combat discrimination in public education, the state may
consider the economic background, race, sex, ethnicity, and national
origin of qualified individuals.”
On April 20, several UC-Berkeley faculty members formed the
Berkeley Faculty for Educational Opportunity and Diversity (BFEOD).
Four days later, they held a press conference to express their outrage
about plunging minority enrollment figures at UC-Berkeley, and to
pledge their support for EEOI.
“The early admission figures demonstrate beyond any doubt that
Berkeley is rapidly being resegregated along racial lines,” said
Professor L. Ling-chi Wang, chair of UC-Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic
Studies. “We don’t want people to think that the faculty here is
totally capitulating to the trend.”
Wang fears that the multiracial student body UC-Berkeley has
developed over the last thirty years will be wiped out in just two or
three years if current admissions practices are allowed to continue.
Compared to 1997 figures, this year’s admissions to UC-Berkeley are
down 64 percent for African Americans, 59 percent for Native Americans,
and 56 percent for Chicanos.
“Within three years, I guarantee you that Berkeley will be only Asian and White,” Wang says. “We cannot allow that.”
Dr. Elaine Kim, professor of Asian American studies, is a member of
the faculty group supporting EEOI. When she was promoted to tenure at
UC-Berkeley in 1981 — the first Asian American woman to achieve that
rank — 98 percent of the tenured faculty were White and male.
Kim claims to be a beneficiary of affirmative action programs,
citing a time which she refers to as the days of “apartheid education.”
Now, however, she points out that Asian Americans have become the
beneficiaries of Proposition 209.
“Their numbers at Berkeley increased, while other students of color
dropped by 56 to 66 percent,” Kim said. “As an Asian American who
experienced racial segregation firsthand, I think it is crucial for all
of us to remember history arid, renew our commitment to fairness and
Preliminary admissions for this fall include 2,998 Asian students,
which out-number every other group — including Whites. Only 27
American Indian freshmen were accepted for admission, 191 African
Americans, and 600 Latinos and Chicanos. White admissions totaled
2,674. According to these preliminary figures, African Americans,
Native Americans, and Chicano/Latino Americans will only constitute 10
percent of the entering class this fall, down from 23 percent last year.
Kim also worries that segregation will affect the distribution of
racial groups within the UC system, so that Black and Latino students
will end up at certain UC campuses, while UC-Berkeley will become
almost completely White and Asian.
Passed in 1996, Proposition 209 eliminated the consideration of
race and gender in admissions decisions at all of the state’s public
colleges and university campuses. Even before Proposition 209 was
passed, the University of California Board of Regents had passed its
own mandate to eliminate affirmative action.
EEOI would allow public elementary schools schools, community
colleges, and universities to once again use affirmative action
programs that help low-income and underrepresented students advance to
An organization called Students for Educational Opportunity is
circulating petitions to place EEOI before California voters in 2000.
It had originally hoped to get, the initiative placed on the 1998
ballot, but failed to secure the required number of signatures before
the April 17 deadline. The organization estimates it has a quarter of
the 800,000 votes it needs by June 20, 1998 to qualify for the next
statewide election, which is in 2000. If voters pass the initiative, it
would be added to the California constitution.
“This is a time for action,” said Dr. Eugene Garcia, dean of the Graduate School of Education, in his support of EEOI.
“We have in this initiative an opportunity for the people to speak
again — not that we need quotas, but that this is a viable alternative
to address the circumstances in which we find ourselves in California.”
Dr. Michael Rogin, professor of political science, echoed Garcia’s
support for EEOI, claiming that Proposition 209 was deceptively worded.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the voters of the state to vote for something that is good,” Rogin said.
BFEOD also voiced its opposition to “uncapped” GPAs, which allow
students who take honors and advanced placement (AP) courses to achieve
GPAs above 4.0.
“Many students do not have the same opportunity to take those courses, through no fault of their own,” Garcia explained.
Several of the approximately seventy people attending the press
conference voiced support for his comment. One African American woman
in the audience complained that her daughter was not allowed access to
AP courses at the nearby Berkeley Unified High School.
Rogin complained that SAT scores “do not measure anything except
privilege,” a claim which many in the audience supported with clapping
One admissions officer attending the press conference cautioned
people not to use the admissions staff as a scapegoat for the
decreasing diversity of UC campuses. Elizabeth Wilcox is an admissions
officer for the campus’ Haas School of Business, which admits
undergraduates at the junior level, but not as freshmen. She believes
people are unfairly blaming the undergraduate admissions committee for
what many see as disappointing new admissions statistics.
“I think that they actually predicted it ahead of time, worked
really hard to avoid it, and used a lot of creativity and initiative to
try to avoid it,” Wilcox said. “It was inevitable, based on policy and
not on the actual reading [of admissions applications] by people at
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