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Restore the Welcome Mat at UC

Affirmative action: Rescind the 1995 resolution as a signal to minorities.

April 17, 1998|WILLIAM T. BAGLEY | William T. Bagley is a University of California regent

As a result of the dramatic reduction of minority admissions to UC Berkeley and UCLA, we are seeing national and perhaps international media coverage of the University of California. The UC Board of Regents welcomes those admitted but a question remains: How welcome will the vastly decreased percentage of black and Latino students feel? They are the cream of all applicants and will have their choice of other major universities.

In the longer run, the state will somehow improve K-12 education and thus improve the pool of applicants. But what about the present generation? What if fewer than half of the 191 qualified black applicants to UC Berkeley accept our offer of admittance? What should the Board of Regents do then? Extend outreach, improve the urban schools? Fine, but what about the message given nationally by this board, which led the charge and voted one year and four months before Proposition 209 to ban affirmative action in admissions?

If it were not for those 14 votes by this board in 1995, our university would not be the direct focal point of the kind of media attention that we are seeing now. What about state colleges, what about minority contracting, what about city and county employment practices? We hear nothing about them under Proposition 209 because it was this board that led the charge in 1995.

The short-term issue before this board is not what we do to improve K-12. It is not "affirmative action" per se and it is not Proposition 209. Today's issue is what we have conveyed by our July 1995 action, how we are perceived and what we should do now.

We started it; we are blamed for it. Therefore, we need to act.

I ask the board to send another message. Let Proposition 209 take its place in law but let's rescind our 1995 resolution. Let these students and the world around us know that we welcome them. By rescinding the original 1995 resolution, we remove the current perception that this board and this great university somehow oppose diversity.

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