IRVINE — UC Irvine students and professors on Monday rallied in opposition to a proposal before the UC Board of Regents to eliminate affirmative action in student admissions.
"Student affirmative action is about opportunity," said Corina Espinoza, director of UCI's Cultural Resource Center. "It's about giving people the opportunity to exhibit promising qualities. It's about equity and it's about having the same thing available to everyone in our society."
The rally was sponsored by a coalition of cultural and political student organizations that formed a month ago in response to the debate on affirmative action and UC admissions.
Regent Ward Connerly has called for an end to race-based preferences in admissions, a proposal the board may consider in June. Currently, the policy requires that the UC campuses reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of the state.
In January, Connerly told the regents that he believes the university weighs gender and race too heavily in its admissions decisions and that those considerations have come to overshadow other qualifications.
"We are relying on race and ethnicity not as one of many factors, but as a dominant factor to the exclusion of all others," he said then.
Speakers who gathered at the steps of UC Irvine's administration building voiced their support of giving preference to minority candidates.
Marion Timm, assistant executive vice chancellor, said those opposed to affirmative action are rewinding the clock to the pre-civil rights era.
"I want to know who is asking the people who are opposed to affirmative action to sit at the back of the bus? I want to know who is asking the people who are opposed to affirmative action to use a separate bathroom?" Timm said. "And the answer is nobody is making them do this. They live where they want to live, go to the bathroom where they want to go. . . ."
"Don't let them get away with it. Twenty-one years later and nothing has changed," Timm said.
Chancellor Laurel Wilkening, who did not attend the teach-in, wrote a letter to the Affirmative Action Coalition, which Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez read at the rally.
"Unfortunately, the equal opportunity promised in the Constitution has been tested against a long history of educational inequities. To nurture a multitude of talents and interests, the university will continue its commitment to a equitable admissions policy," Wilkening wrote.
The academic Senate, representing the university's 1,041 professors, also endorsed affirmative action in a resolution passed in March, said James Danziger, academic Senate chair.
Others said that to succeed, affirmative action requires more government intervention.
"The government has basically failed in its commitment to affirmative action. At the upper levels (of the work force), a glass ceiling still exists for women and minorities. Affirmative action has had limited success and has not achieved what it set out to do," said John Liu, professor of Asian American studies.