While the Trump administration caused a stir last week when it reversed Obama-era policies encouraging universities to consider racial diversity in admissions, reaction in California was muted. That’s because California’s public universities have been banned from using race in admissions decisions since voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996.
The percentage of African-American, Latino and Native American freshmen enrolling at the University of California plummeted after the proposition went into effect, especially at UC’s most selective campuses, Berkeley and UCLA.
Just as striking was the impact on applications — fewer students in those groups were bothering to even apply, a university report found.
“I offer California as a cautionary tale to the rest of the nation,” then-UC President Richard Atkinson wrote in a 2003 Washington Post op-ed. “Our experience to date shows that if race cannot be factored into admissions decisions at all, the ethnic diversity of an elite public institution such as the University of California may fall well behind that of the state it serves.”