Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Professors Want Affirmative Action Back

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Professors Want Affirmative Action Back

Article excerpt

University of California-Berkeley faculty group joins student effort to get new affirmative action measure on 2000 ballot

Berkeley, Calif. -- A group of University of California-Berkeley faculty members -- alarmed about plunging admissions of African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos in the aftermath of California's Proposition 209 -- are the latest group to urge passage of a new, student-authored measure called the Equal Educational Opportunity Initiative (EEOI).

EEOI seeks to mitigate the anti-diversity consequences of Proposition 209, which wiped out affirmative action at California's public institutions, including the University of California. The initiative reads: "In order to provide equal opportunity, promote diversity, and combat discrimination in public education, the state may consider the economic background, race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin of qualified individuals."

On April 20, several UC-Berkeley faculty members formed the Berkeley Faculty for Educational Opportunity and Diversity (BFEOD). Four days later, they held a press conference to express their outrage about plunging minority enrollment figures at UC-Berkeley, and to pledge their support for EEOI.

"The early admission figures demonstrate beyond any doubt that Berkeley is rapidly being resegregated along racial lines," said Professor L. Ling-chi Wang, chair of UC-Berkeley's Department of Ethnic Studies. "We don't want people to think that the faculty here is totally capitulating to the trend."

Wang fears that the multiracial student body UC-Berkeley has developed over the last thirty years will be wiped out in just two or three years if current admissions practices are allowed to continue. Compared to 1997 figures, this year's admissions to UC-Berkeley are down 64 percent for African Americans, 59 percent for Native Americans, and 56 percent for Chicanos.

"Within three years, I guarantee you that Berkeley will be only Asian and White," Wang says. "We cannot allow that."

Dr. Elaine Kim, professor of Asian American studies, is a member of the faculty group supporting EEOI. When she was promoted to tenure at UC-Berkeley in 1981 -- the first Asian American woman to achieve that rank -- 98 percent of the tenured faculty were White and male.

Kim claims to be a beneficiary of affirmative action programs, citing a time which she refers to as the days of "apartheid education." Now, however, she points out that Asian Americans have become the beneficiaries of Proposition 209.

"Their numbers at Berkeley increased, while other students of color dropped by 56 to 66 percent," Kim said. "As an Asian American who experienced racial segregation firsthand, I think it is crucial for all of us to remember history arid, renew our commitment to fairness and equality."

Preliminary admissions for this fall include 2,998 Asian students, which out-number every other group -- including Whites. Only 27 American Indian freshmen were accepted for admission, 191 African Americans, and 600 Latinos and Chicanos. White admissions totaled 2,674. According to these preliminary figures, African Americans, Native Americans, and Chicano/Latino Americans will only constitute 10 percent of the entering class this fall, down from 23 percent last year.

Kim also worries that segregation will affect the distribution of racial groups within the UC system, so that Black and Latino students will end up at certain UC campuses, while UC-Berkeley will become almost completely White and Asian. …

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