As much as this page exhorted Californians to vote against Proposition 209 in 1996, the constitutional amendment that bars affirmative action in state hiring and admissions at public colleges is now the law, having survived numerous legal challenges. A bill passed by the Legislature this year that would allow the University of California and California State University to "consider" race, gender and so forth in the admissions process is a clear attempt to flout that law. Gov. Jerry Brown should veto SB 185, which would thwart the will of the voters even if it survived a certain legal challenge.
Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) told Times reporters that SB 185 was not in conflict with Proposition 209 because it would only allow universities to consider those factors rather than give preference to them. In fact, the bill specifically says that "no preference shall be given." But that's doublespeak. Why would an admissions committee consider race, gender or national origin if not to factor them into its decisions? Indeed, the actual wording of the bill makes it clear that admissions directors wouldn't just be chatting aimlessly about applicants' backgrounds.
The bill prods the university systems to take race and similar factors into account "to the maximum extent" allowed by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the use of affirmative action at the University of Michigan's law school. The court ruled that although strict racial quotas violated the U.S. Constitution, the law school could give preferential treatment to applicants on racial grounds as part of a comprehensive admissions policy designed to make its student body more diverse.