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Bill to Restore College Affirmative Action Hits Roadblock

| March 17, 2014
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Assembly Speaker John Peréz says the Legislature’s lower house won’t vote on SCA5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal the ban on affirmative action in higher education imposed by Proposition 209.

With the proposal drawing protests from many Asian Americans in California concerned about its impact on college admissions, Peréz announced Monday that he was withdrawing the proposal from consideration at the request of state Sen. Ed Hernandez, a Los Angeles-area Democrat who first introduced the amendment in December 2012. That will allow the state Senate to convene a commission to further study the idea.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Hernandez said: “Given the scare tactics and misinformation used by certain groups opposed to SCA 5, we felt it was necessary to have a discussion based on facts and take the time to hear from experts on the challenges our public universities and colleges face with regards to diversity, as well as the implications for California’s workforce and our overall competitiveness in a global economy. Although I have met with, and will continue to meet with, individuals and organizations that have concerns regarding SCA 5, these Commission hearings will be yet another opportunity for people to have their voices heard.”

(Hernandez appeared on “KQED Newsroom” on Friday — see video above — to promote the measure and described it “as about diversity but more important about equal opportunity for every student here in the state of California.”)

Prop. 209, which passed in 1996 with 54.5 percent of the vote, declares: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

Critics of the affirmative action ban say it has made it more difficult for underrepresented minorities — especially African-American students — trying to gain admission to the state’s public colleges. A study last year said the percentage of black applicants admitted to the University of California systemwide had fallen from 75 percent to 58 percent since Prop. 209 became law. The Campaign for College Opportunity Study said that African-American admission rates fell from 51.1 percent percent to 15.4 percent at UC Berkeley and from 57.5 percent to 13.5 percent at UCLA.

Sen. Hernandez’s SCA5 would have repealed Prop. 209′s ban on racial and other admissions preferences in higher education, and the measure received little attention until the state Senate approved it by a vote of 27-9 in late January. Among those voting for SCA5 were Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Southern California Sens. Ted Lieu and Carol Liu. They are all Chinese Americans, and all say they have heard from thousands of people concerned about SCA 5. A Yee aide acknowledged Monday that some supporters had threatened to withhold campaign contributions as the senator runs for California Secretary of State.

The Senate vote triggered a backlash from parts of the state’s Asian-American community. Both parents and political activists have expressed concern that the high degree of success Asian-American students have enjoyed in the state’s public colleges could be reversed.

Here’s how the Sacramento Bee’s Capital Notes blog summarizes the announcement from Peréz and what led to it:

… Pérez said he is sending the measure back to the Senate without taking any action in the lower house.

“It really is driven most by my interest in making sure we come out with the best policy outcomes,” Pérez said.

“And as it’s currently written I don’t think SCA5 gives us that. As it’s currently written it requires a two-thirds vote of both houses, and those votes don’t exist in both houses.”

Pérez said he and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg will form a task force to discuss whether California should change the way it admits students to public universities.

The group will include representatives from the University of California, California State University and the community colleges, he said.

The move came a week after three Asian-American state senators — who had previously voted for SCA5 — asked Pérez to put a stop the measure.

“Prior to the vote on SCA5 in the Senate, we heard no opposition to the bill. However, in the past few weeks, we have heard from thousands of people throughout California voicing their concerns about the potential impacts,” Sens. Ted Lieu of Torrance, Carol Liu of La Canada Flintridge and Leland Yee of San Francisco wrote to Perez on March 11.

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Sean Peng

    Out of so many voices around SCA5, KQED picked 3 guests who are all for SCA5, and no guest actually against it. It’s so called “independent” news report?

  • Wayne

    KQED is pretty much twisted on this issue by biased brains. It didn’t behave as public media. It looks like and acts like a party’s propaganda tool, somebody else’s mouth and tongue, and a private speaker. It’s a hot topic in extensive discussion currently, but you even dare not to invite a guest with different opinions, what a shameless twisting evil!

  • Karen Ke Huang

    KQED, as a public media, you did so wrong this time. I listened 2 reports from you, you only interviewed the Dem, the author of SCA5, and the supporters of SCA5, you never gave a chance to people who are in the other side. You used Hernandez’s info to mislead the public.

    Hispanic 2013 CalState undergrads 137k, 27k more than white (110k).
    2013, UC freshmen, 9322 enrolled, 1389 more than whites (7933).
    But Mr Hernandez still claims Hispanic under-represented.

    You only focus on UCB and UCLA, why don’t you open your eyes and look at all the higher education as a whole- all the other Cal State Universities, and Community Colleges?

  • HJ

    SCA 5 prompts judging people by color and race for college admission in California. This is just wrong. What is Democrat next agenda? Make engineers in high tech companies proportion to the population? Prison population? Tax paid? Sizes of homes we live in?

  • Kevin Nha

    KQED is ill-informed.

  • Firefly Helen

    2013: CalState has 27 thousand more Hispanic students than white students.
    2013: UC has 1389 more Hispanic freshmen than White.

    KQED staff: you still think Hispanic under-represented in CalState and UC?

  • http://www.RiderBlog.NotLong.com/ Richard Rider

    Here’s my slightly modified version of a column I wrote on this madness:

    “The California University Jew and Asian Student Admission Quota Act”

    This Associated Press “story” about the California bill to overturn Prop 209 (the anti-”affirmative action” prop passed by the voters in 1996) is essentially the “cut and paste” version of the dishonest press release put out by proponents.

    Here’s what the story says: “In 1995, minority students accounted for 38 percent of high school graduates and 21 percent of those entering as University of California freshmen, Hernandez [a principal proponent of the bill] said. By 2004, they made up 45 percent of high school graduates but 18 percent of incoming UC freshmen, he said, adding the gap is growing.”

    But go look at the official stats of the demographics of 2013 incoming UC freshman:
    http://www.ucop.edu/news/factsheets/2013/fall_2013_admissions_table3.pdf (end of the table)

    So, what’s the percentage of incoming freshmen who are white (INCLUDING the vague “other” category)? 28.1% — well BELOW the percentage of whites in California (42.3%). And BTW, note that this table shows that the percentage of the selectively designated “oppressed” minority admissions is NOT shrinking — it’s remarkably level. The drop they ballyhoo is the ending in 1996 of the disastrous and discriminatory quota system that existed before we passed Prop 209 to make such discrimination illegal.

    This bill is not about countering white privilege. It’s about setting up restrictive DE FACTO quotas for ASIANS (and presumably overachieving Jews) — Asians constitute a (supposedly evil) disproportionately high 36% of admissions vs. 14.9% of the CA population. Apparently these Asian kids “act white” FAR better than even WHITE kids act white!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_California

    To make the numbers being used to justify the bill favorable, the affirmative action (not quotas, of course) sponsors made the Asians minority part of the “white” majority (which is not a majority). Ipso presto, discrimination abounds!!

    Such racist dishonesty is breathtaking — until one realizes that, well, this IS California. It’s okay to discriminate against Asians in the Golden State — just as it was once acceptable to establish informal admission quotas on high-performing Jews at Ivy League colleges a century ago.

    NOTE: Here’s an aspect of the bill that most will overlook. Included in this new stealth quota system bill is a redress of the longstanding grievance against gender discrimination. It’s gone on for generations and continues even today — ask any liberal.

    But here’s the thing: The bill will require what amounts to discrimination against the gender that is too frequently admitted — you guessed it — WOMEN.

    In 2010 the UC system admitted 95,403 women and only 84,178 men — a PRIMA FACIE case confirming discrimination. I look forward to the innovative progressive implementation of this solution to gender discrimination.
    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/31/tp-bid-to-undo-ban-on-using-race-at-schools/

  • Kin White

    Shame on Senator Hernandez for blaming others as using “scare tactics” and “misinformation”, when he is the one who brings up the most racist bill and stir up potential antagonism between different minority groups. We can read the bill. The outrage and grassroot opposition started well before 80-20 or Republicans noticed.

    We are against SCA5 because it’s a racist bill. It punishes hard-working students just because of their skin color, something they cannot change. It’s a step back in history.

    We are against SCA5 because it will not actually help under-represented minorities. See the Elder vs Hernandez debate for why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDGuiJRZa4I

    We are against SCA5 because 2/3 of Americans reject the idea of considering race in college admission (including 59% of Latinos). See the Gallup poll from last July: http://www.gallup.com/poll/163655/reject-considering-race-college-admissions.aspx

    As a society, we should help lower-middle class kids to get more opportunity. However, let’s not use race to define the group of kids who need help. Racial discrimination helps nobody, except for the well-off minority families such as Senator Hernandez himself. Let’s not go there.

  • Jing Wang

    Shame on KQED. All three guests supports SCA5. Where is your profesionalism? Why not invite at leasat one guest who has a different opinion. Conlusion: KQED twisted the facts and lost its credibility. It is a new low for KQED.