When college students return next week to the University of
California campus here in suburban Riverside, they will find
something in greater abundance than on most campuses in America:
The number of underrepresented minorities has fallen in the nine-
campus UC system for the past two years, the result of a 1995 vote in
California to phase out affirmative action. But UC Riverside has
seen a dramatic increase in every racial category.
"We have found that by making diversity a major priority in the
way we approach recruitment and admissions, we can reflect the
growing ethnic variety of California without affirmative-action
policies," says Riverside Chancellor Raymond Orbach.
Attracting a fall class that reflects racial diversity is the
stated goal of every public university in the land. But in recent
years, lawsuits and political upheaval over affirmative action have
produced a new climate of concern in several states. Worried about
censure, litigation, and public condemnation, colleges are trying new
ways to expand minority enrollments, without depending on admission
quotas and race-designated scholarships.
"Universities are keeping diversity of enrollment as a top
priority without relying directly on race, per se," says Roselyn
Hebert, spokeswoman for the National Association of State
Universities and Land Grant Colleges.
Instead, they are finding ways to expand the minority pool by
establishing outreach and preparatory programs that begin in
elementary school. They are reaching into poorer ethnic
neighborhoods and rural regions, and educating potential minority
bases about financial aid and campus jobs. They are tapping into
community- college systems for qualified transfer students. And they
are taking creative license with admissions criteria - for instance,
adding weight to extracurricular activities in which minorities
participate - instead of relying solely on grade point averages and
"There is no one magic bullet here," says Mr. Orbach. "It's time-
consuming, expensive, and requires long-term planning and
commitment." The UCR minority enrollment - now 31 percent, an
increase of 5 percent from last year - is being used as a prime
example of what universities can achieve without quota structures.
Affirmative-action practices grew widespread after a 1978 US
Supreme Court ruling, which held that colleges could use race as a
factor to admit students to remedy past discrimination.
But a series of lawsuits in recent years have started to chip away
at the standard, while public opinion has grown more wary of
affirmative action. A federal Circuit court in Texas found that a
white woman was unfairly passed over for admission to the University
of Texas Law School in favor of two minority students who were less