California Lt. Gov. Seeks to Repair Damaged Diversity

By Locke, Michelle | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

California Lt. Gov. Seeks to Repair Damaged Diversity


Locke, Michelle, Black Issues in Higher Education


BERKELY, Calif. -- As lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante has watched in dismay as Hispanic and Black enrollment at the University of California has tumbled.

As a member of the university system's board of regents, he thinks he knows a way to reverse the trend.

Bustamante is suggesting that the university system consider repealing its anti-affirmative action policies. The move would be purely symbolic, since Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot initiative banning affirmative action in public hiring, contracting and education, remains the law in California.

Bustamante is not challenging Prop. 209. But he says repealing the now-redundant policies would send a significant message to minorities who feel they're not welcome.

"We need to find a way to figure out how to attract talented, very qualified minority students who are unwilling to go to the University of California," he says.

The university system's regents banned race-based admissions in 1995, a vote that took on added prominence when Ward Connerly, the regent who wrote the system's anti-affirmative action policies, became a national leader in a movement to do away with affirmative action.

Critics blame the ban for a dramatic drop in Black and Hispanic admissions after the policies took effect in 1998.

Bustamante says taking back the vote would extricate the university from the front lines of the affirmative action debate, a position he says is offensive to minority communities.

"We're not talking about repealing Proposition 209 here," he says. "We're taking off what is now duplicative and unnecessary policy."

Bustamante isn't planning on calling for a vote on his idea any time soon. Regents met late last month for the first time since the lieutenant governor went public with an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, but they weren't scheduled to talk about affirmative action.

Still, Bustamante has at least one supporter, Regent Bill Bagley, who has long lamented the university's position in the vanguard of the anti-affirmative action movement. …

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