Affirmative Action


 Prop. 209 Is Just Fine


California will not solve its higher education diversity problems by bringing affirmative action back into the admissions process. 

Racial diversity and minority underrepresentation in California’s schools has been a hot-button issue for half a century, but a proposed amendment to California Proposition 209 that would lift the ban on “affirmative action” in UC and CSU admissions has stirred up quite the controversy.

Proposition 209 was originally signed into law in 1996, and effectively banned state institutions from discriminating based on “race, ethnicity, color, sex or national origin” when considering candidates for employment or education admissions. Officially, this would mean that college admissions officers could not prioritize these criteria when considering candidates for admission. Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which has already been passed by the State Senate, seeks to exempt state universities, like the UC system, from those rules in an attempt to increase the proportions of students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. In a system that had 4.2-percent black admissions and 27.6-percent Latino admissions in spring 2013, this would likely mean higher enrollment for students of these backgrounds.

But as much as we support diversity and advocate equality in admissions, we don’t think that bending admissions standards to prioritize underrepresented groups will deal with the underlying problems in higher education. While the intentions behind SCA-5 are good, the Universities of California should not reject qualified candidates in favor of meeting race-based quotas.

Under the UC system’s current admissions protocol, dubbed “holistic review,” an applicant’s race is not the primary determinant of their chances, as it is in the affirmative action system. Admissions officers assign each student a score, to which the circumstances associated with a student’s race or background contributes, along with the usual academics and extra-curricular activities. While this might be helpful in deciding between two nearly identical candidates, the purely race-based admissions methods that SCA-5 will give way to are steps in the wrong direction.

Arbitrarily boosting minority candidates’ applications tends to hurt the very students that the policy is intended to help. Graduation rates for underrepresented groups in state universities show that putting students with low high school performance into a rigorous academic environment will not help them succeed. Statistics from California’s Postsecondary Education Commission show that black and Latino men and women are, on average, 10 percent less likely than their counterparts to complete their degree over a 4-to-6 year period. While there are certainly thousands of high-achieving students from minority backgrounds, it seems as though students who have been accepted on the basis of their ethnicity may end up struggling. We feel that these students would be better served and more likely to earn their way into prestigious universities if California took the initiative beginning with early education to help them succeed.

Statistics seem to show, in fact, that the education inequality gap emerges earlier in education. According to the California Department of Education, Hispanic/Latino children make up just over 52 percent of California’s K-12 public school student demographic but constitute only 30 percent of applicants to the UC system. In contrast, Asian-American students make up around 11 percent of the K-12 population but 44 percent of applicants to the UC. The problem doesn’t lie in admissions to the UC, which proportionally have a fairly close correlation to applications. The problem is the lagging number of minority high school students applying to colleges.

Accordingly, investment in primary and secondary schooling for underrepresented minorities may hold the solution. The UCSD-run charter Preuss School, which exclusively admits would-be first-generation college students, turns out high school graduates that are accepted to four-year colleges, including prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale and MIT. School programs should focus on motivating the many talented but underrepresented children who come through their doors. With a supportive environment and an interactive curriculum that could include anything from the arts to robotics, schools can take steps to ensure that these students can apply to college with the same academic background as their white and Asian-American peers.
Thousands of highly qualified students from other ethnic backgrounds are already turned away from the UC system every year, and the number is only expected to increase if the bill passes. Accepting more minorities is all very well, but every seat given is one taken away from another potential student. The highest-achieving college entrants systemwide have historically been of white and Asian-American ethnicity, and we feel that is unfair for academically stellar students to be passed up because of their race alone.
While we appreciate the efforts of those in the state legislature to try and level the playing field for students of all races, we suggest that they look to alternative methods. Engaging and improving primary and secondary education can help bright, underrepresented minority students get the academic experience they need for success without suggesting they need special accommodations to get there.

Source: The Guardian 

More on School Mascots


Calif. High School Won’t Drop ‘Arab’ Name, But May Change Mascot

A California high school won’t be getting rid of its “Arab” name, but will discuss possible changes to its mascot with a national anti-discrimination group, The Desert Sun reports.

The Coachella Valley Unified school board held a special meeting on Friday night after its mascot gained national attention in recent weeks. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) sent a letter to the district on Nov. 1 asking the high school to “immediately address” its “orientalist stereotyping of Arabs.”

In a letter published in The Desert Sun this week, Coachella Valley Superintendent Darryl S. Adams explained that the name, which was originally introduced in the 1920s, was designed to “show both respect and honor for the Middle Eastern cultures and crops known to be strong throughout the Coachella Valley.”

He acknowledged, however, that the mascot “now provokes negative feelings,” which “must be addressed.”

Thus, at the board meeting on Friday, Adams announced that the “Arab” name won’t be going anywhere, but changes to the mascot remain a possibility.

“(Changing) the name ‘Arab’ is no longer on the table,” Adams said at the board meeting, per The Desert Sun. “It is a name we will keep.”

Abed Ayoub, the ADC’s director of legal and policy affairs, plans to travel to the district next week to speak with students, city officials, and alumni, per the ADC’s Facebook page. “It is ADC’s hope that the trip will foster further understanding of the community concerns, and begin the process of resolution.”

The district has planned a press conference for Tuesday to discuss the future of the mascot, according to The Desert Sun.

Source: Education Week