College Minority Admissions Drop Effect of Affirmative-Action Rollback Even Greater Than Expected

Article excerpt

Both supporters and foes of affirmative action have long argued that the imposition of race-blind university admission policies would alter the look of American campuses. Now the first evidence is in, and the results are even more dramatic than many predicted.

The admission of the first post-affirmative-action classes at prestigious law schools in California and Texas shows a steep decline in the number of minority students. In fact, the number of African-Americans offered admission in law schools at the University of California at Los Angeles and Berkeley dropped by 80 percent.

The numbers are intensifying the debate over the movement to roll back race- and gender-based preferences nationwide. University of California graduate schools are the first to carry out a 1985 decision by the state Board of Regents to ban affirmative action in admissions. Last fall California voters passed Proposition 209, barring such policies in public higher education, employment, and business contracting. The California measure is now a model for similar moves in other states and in Congress. "This is what a 209 world is going to look like - a legal profession with virtually no representation for the African-American, Latino, and native American communities," says Mark Rosenbaum of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and a 209 critic. While not cheering the lack of diversity, opponents of affirmative action see the statistics as proof of how pervasive race was in past admissions. "It's an utterly predictable result," says Terry Pell, a spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights. Officials of the University of California law schools, who had strongly opposed the decision to end affirmative action, decried the move on Wednesday, when the numbers were released. "This dramatic decline in the number of offers of admission made to non-Asian minority applications is precisely what we feared would result from the elimination of affirmative action," says Herma Hill Kay, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, law school. The loss of racial and ethnic diversity is undeniable. Compared with 1996 admissions, UCLA has admitted 80 percent fewer blacks, 32 percent fewer Hispanics, and 60 percent fewer native Americans, while admissions of whites and Asians is rising. At Berkeley's Boalt Hall, which boasted one of the most diverse student bodies of top law schools, minority admissions have dropped from 20 percent to 7 percent. These results are mirrored at the University of Texas law school, which stopped using race-based criteria following a federal court decision last year. …