UC Leaders, May and Drake, Condemn Ending Affirmative Action

Chancellor May courtesy UC Davis

UC President Drake Expresses Disappointment

By Michael V. Drake, M.D

We are disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to bar the use of race in college admissions, a valuable practice that has helped higher education institutions increase diversity and address historical wrongs over the past several decades.

Student diversity remains a top priority for the University of California — one that we will continue to pursue with every tool available to us. Attracting, supporting and retaining a diverse student body leads to better quality instruction and educational outcomes, significant community benefits and overall fairness.

Since the consideration of race in admissions was banned in California 27 years ago by Proposition 209, the University of California has adjusted its admissions practices to comply with the law while continuing to aggressively pursue avenues for increasing diverse student applications, admissions, enrollment, and retention. Through a comprehensive admissions review process, we have made important strides in this area — but more work remains to be done by us all.

Today’s court decision bars the use of an important tool for other higher education institutions. The consideration of race was not the conclusive solution to inequities in college admissions, but it was an important pathway to addressing systemic deficiencies. Without it, we must work much harder to identify and address the root causes of societal inequities that hinder diverse students in pursuing and achieving a higher education.

The University of California continues to work to create clearer pathways to college and to address inequality in admissions. We stand ready to share our expertise and lessons learned as we collaborate with our partners to achieve a higher education landscape that reflects the rich diversity of our nation.

Additional background:

  • The consideration of race in admissions was banned in California in 1996 through the voter-approved Proposition 209. Since that time, the University of California has used a comprehensive review process to evaluate applicants based on multiple factors, including:
    • Academic accomplishments in light of a student’s life experiences and special circumstances;
    • Quality of academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in the applicant’s high school;
    • Recent, marked improvement in academic performance as demonstrated by GPA and the quality of coursework completed or in progress; and
    • Special talents, achievements, skills, or experiences.
  • The University of California offers information, training and academic support for students, their families and guardians, and K-12 educators to encourage college preparation and application from students of all backgrounds.

UC undergraduates by race and ethnicity

  • Fall 2022:
    • 32.2% Asian

    • 22.5% Hispanic/Latino

    • 22.2% White

    • 4.5% African American

    • 0.5% American Indian

    • 0.3% Pacific Islander

    • 2.8% Domestic unknown

    • 15% international

  • 2002 (post Prop. 209)
    • 38% Asian
    • 14% Hispanic/Latino
    • 36% White
    • 3% African American
    • 1% American Indian
    • 1% Pacific Islander
    • 8% Domestic unknown
    • 1% International
  • 1994 (pre-Prop. 209):
    • 37% Asian
    • 15% Hispanic/Latino
    • 36% White
    • 4% African American
    • 1% American Indian
    • 0% Pacific Islander
    • 5% Domestic unknown
    • 1% International

Supreme Court Decision Ends Affirmative Action

by Gary S. May

In track and field, the “staggered start” is a mechanism used to account for the fact that runners in the outer lanes of the track have a longer distance to run than those in the inner lanes. Like the staggered start, affirmative action is intended to account for historical inequities experienced by marginalized communities in higher education and other endeavors. Today, the Supreme Court has decided that this tool is no longer appropriate.

I echo President Michael Drake’s statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action. While public universities in California have recruited new classes of students without considering race and gender as main factors since 1996, opportunities available for underrepresented students will become fewer with today’s decision.

I worry that underrepresented students of color and women will find more challenges and obstacles on their way to fields like mine, engineering, and in other science and technology fields. Without programs that engage students early in their education and encourage them to persist in fields they may not have seen as available to them, our nation may further neglect nurturing intellectual diversity and promote a lack of inclusivity. That takes the country backward, not forward.

At UC Davis, we will continue to build on efforts like those of our School of Medicine, where half the class is from Black, Hispanic and Indigenous populations. We will continue to provide equitable access to all Californians.

We are committed to the notion that a college degree holds a transformative power to shape a person’s life, no matter what their background or circumstances are and no matter what barriers they may face in their academic journey.

No more stagger? We’ll just have to run faster.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ron Oertel


    UC undergraduates by race and ethnicity

    “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you”.

    (Particularly if you’re Asian.)

    Without it, we must work much harder to identify and address the root causes of societal inequities that hinder diverse students in pursuing and achieving a higher education.

    Translation: “We will continue to try to find ways to skirt the law (as well as the intention of California voters).”

    We’re also “too big and have too much prestige to fail, and we’re confident that the legislature will continue to support us, regardless”.

    (If the UC system was actually concerned about diversity, they’d attempt to find out why males are under-represented.)

  2. Ron Oertel

    But it might be even more-interesting to see what Gary May has to say about the “other” Supreme Court Decision, blocking student loan forgiveness:


    One might be tempted to focus on the impact on students, but it’s really more of an elimination of the “gravy train” for UC (and other university systems).

    Due to changing demographics, cost, and decreasing value of some college degrees, it seems that the UC system may end up being the “last man standing”, so to speak. But my guess is that the state would pump in more money to save them, as needed. (That is, if they have any money to do so, themselves.)

  3. Keith Olsen

    SCOTUS made the right decisions regarding both affirmative action and student loan forgiveness.  They ruled according to the letter of the law.

  4. Keith Olsen

    With the SCOTUS ruling the UC System had better be careful with their admissions rules or they might face multiple lawsuits from prospective enrollees who feel they were unfairly shut out due to the race.

  5. Richard McCann

    Ron O;

    If the UC system was actually concerned about diversity, they’d attempt to find out why males are under-represented.

    Ah, anything to protect unearned privilege.

    Research shows that 75% of student achievement is derived from the effects of parents’ education and the affluence of the child’s community. That has nothing to do with an individual’s merit.

    Then we have to ask the larger question of what have we gotten out of such and overreliance on merit and individual choice of how and where to use that merit. Relying on that more and more hasn’t worked out so well for society over the last half century. Just ask Trump supporters.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Whose “privilege” are you referring to?

      Your comment has nothing to do with what I pointed out.

      And truth be told, universities are increasingly aware-of (and are at least somewhat concerned about) what I pointed-out. Pretty sure I can find articles which show this, since that’s where I first learned of this concern.

      Then again, “males” do have opportunities that aren’t as dependent-upon college – due to biological / physical strength strength differences. Just a reality, and not necessarily “shared” by all males. Takes a lot of muscle to do some of that work.

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