SCA-5 and racism blocked

Supporters of affirmative action tried to bring race-conscious admissions back  to California universities lately, but now the effort appears dead after the chief sponsor withdrew the measure from the state Assembly.

A resolution that seeks to amend the California Constitution and undo the work of Proposition 209 for institutions of higher education was recently approved by the California Senate. If the Assembly passes it also, voters will decide the issue.

Senate Constitution Amendment No. 5, authored by Senator Edward Hernandez, proposes “an amendment to the Constitution of the State, by amending Section 31 of Article I thereof, relating to public education.” The resolution explicitly exempts public education institutions of higher learning from provisions of Proposition 209.

In other words, SCA-5 would allow all state universities to consider race and gender in admission decisions. Using such criteria currently is banned by Proposition 209, which voters passed in 1996.

For the past 18 years that Prop. 209 has been in effect, California was the first state to outlaw affirmative action in public university admissions and became the most diversified state. The amendment would have restored racial and gender preferences in admission decisions.

Janet Chin, a media spokesperson for Hernandez, claimed the proposed amendment would take steps to “ensure that universities reflect the diversity of the state.”

“Campuses have become less diverse since Proposition 209 passed. Underrepresented minority groups, like African Americans and Hispanics need protection, and SCA-5 seems to correct this error by securing the best students,” said junior Kiana Hosseinian.

In response to the State Senate bill, Asian communities have begun online petitions against the measure, including one on the White House website. Saying it would drastically decrease the number of Asian students, opponents of the move to take race and ethnicity into consideration in the admission process have ignited opposition throughout the state.

“That’s morally wrong. I think the community would be outraged. You can’t deny someone the opportunity to go to college based on things they can’t control like race and ethnicity and nationality,” said senior Christina Yee.

A petition, titled “California’s SCA-5 is against the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution,” was introduced on Feb. 16 on the White House web site. It has attracted nearly 40,000 signatures, about  60,000  short of the number needed by March 18 to get a response from the White House.

Another petition addressed to California state Assembly members was started on Feb. 16 on change.org. By March 16, the petition had about 112,000 supporters.

“It’s not fair. California passed Proposition 209 about 20 years ago; SCA-5 is the exact opposite of it. While Proposition 209 fights against discrimination, SCA-5 makes it legal to discriminate using race and gender in admission process. If the amendment passes, then California would be taking a huge step backward in our progress towards equality for all,” said sophomore class president Jessica Yin.

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