Who's in charge here? Last year, when passing its ban on race preferences in admission, the University of California Board of Regents clearly intended that the new policy take effect for the fall 1997 entering class. In his Dec. 12 letter to UC chancellors, faculty officials and student leaders, newly installed UC President David Atkinson appeared to agree, saying that the input of his colleagues was needed to meet "universitywide guidelines in admitting their fall 1997 class."
Yet just one month later, Atkinson sent another letter telling the chancellors that he had changed the implementation date to the fall 1998 entering class. Atkinson claims that he was only taking into consideration the difficulty in changing the language of admissions materials. Baloney.
UC admission offices have had plenty of time to prepare. As The Times noted, "For months [UC admission officers] have been working quickly to draft admissions policies and guidelines that incorporate the regents' new policy." A UC Berkeley admissions officer expressed surprise, saying, "We have up until now been working toward the understanding that [the resolution] would take effect fall of 1997."
Atkinson simply caved in to pressure from his colleagues who are opposed to the new race-neutral admissions policy. The San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that "privately, some university faculty and administrators noted that Atkinson faces intense pressure from many of the UC chancellors and made the changes as a concession to them." UC Berkeley professor Larry Wallack, a leader in the faculty movement against the new policy, said gloatingly, "This is more than a symbolic victory. It's a sign that six months of organizing paid off." Putting off implementation for a year gives opponents time to try to pressure the regents to reinstitute race preferences.
Although Atkinson says that he discussed the matter with members of the board, regent Meredith Khachigian says, "The only consultations went on in some very offhand conversations."
It is said that Atkinson wants to reassert the power of his office vis-a-vis the board. The board is the policy-making body appointed by the democratically elected chief executive of the state. As regent Glenn Campbell has accurately assessed, Atkinson's actions constitute "insubordination." Atkinson has supposedly told some regents, "I don't need this job." The regents should call Atkinson's bluff and fire him.