Preferences Will Remain in College Admissions; Just Not by Race

Article excerpt

Now, let me try to get this straight: California Gov. Pete Wilson is fed up with "tribalism" and "dividing Californians by race" in his state's university system, so his response is to get rid of affirmative action in hiring and enrollment, which everyone agrees will reduce the number of blacks and Latinos in the system.

"Are we going to treat all Californians equally and fairly? Or are we going to continue to divide Californians by race?" he asked.

Since those black and Latino students who would have gotten in will have to go somewhere else, we can conclude, in short, that the governor plans to bridge California's racial divide by destroying the bridge.

So much for the virtue of diversity. Diversity was far from uppermost in Wilson's mind as he presided over the University of California Board of Regents meeting last week that ended in a vote to abolish preferences based on race, gender or religion in both hiring and student admissions.

Admissions officials have said the numbers of black students in the nine-campus system, now about 4.3 percent of the total, could decline by half and that enrollments of Latino students, 13 percent of the student body, would decline to about 11 percent.

Asian Americans, now 25 percent, probably would increase, while the number of white students is expected to remain near its present 49.3 percent.

By the numbers, the difference is not great. It's the principle that counts, say the stoic critics of affirmative action.

"We still support the principle of inclusion and diversity," Ward Connerly, a Wilson appointee who introduced the proposal, said after the vote.

Right. They still support the principle of inclusion and diversity. They just don't believe in acting on it.

"From now on, you will know when you see a black or a brown face, they got there because they deserve it, not because of some racial preference," Connerly said.

Well, not quite. Preferential treatment will continue as it does in most colleges for athletes, children of alumni, children of donors, unusual geographic origins, extraordinary extracurricular activities and other factors that have little or nothing to do with academic achievement. You don't know now when you look at a college student, regardless of color, whether he or she received some preferential treatment and you won't know in the future.

As many as 60 percent and as few as 40 percent of the system's students are admitted based on academic achievement alone. …