The University of California Board of Regents today (June 15) unanimously endorsed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5) as well as the repeal of Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race and gender in admissions decisions a quarter-century ago. The votes from the governing board of the world’s preeminent public research university underscore the proactive need to help address systemic and perpetual inequalities in public education.

“There is amazing momentum for righting the wrongs caused by centuries of systemic racism in our country. The UC Board of Regents' votes to endorse ACA 5 and to repeal Proposition 209 plays a part in that effort,” said Board Chair John A. Pérez. “As we continue to explore all the University's opportunities for action, I am proud UC endorsed giving California voters the chance to erase a stain, support opportunity and equality, and repeal Proposition 209.”

UC has long been committed to creating and maintaining a student body that reflects California’s laudable cultural, racial, geographic and socioeconomic diversity. However, Proposition 209 has challenged the University’s ardent efforts to be equitable and inclusive as it seeks to attract the best and brightest students from all backgrounds, while ensuring equal opportunity for all.

“It makes little sense to exclude any consideration of race in admissions when the aim of the University’s holistic process is to fully understand and evaluate each applicant through multiple dimensions,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “Proposition 209 has forced California public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state.”

For nearly two decades UC has steadfastly sought to increase diversity while keeping admissions race-neutral through robust efforts like comprehensive and holistic application review, expanded funds for diversity programs, and partnerships with K-12 schools to target underserved communities, the details of which can be found in the Regents item. However, the reality is UC has been unable to reflect California’s full diversity in its student body.

As recognized in UC’s regental policy, diversity is critical to numerous educational and societal interests. A diverse UC community broadens and deepens the education experience and scholarly environment for students and faculty alike while furthering the University’s mission as a public institution that can strengthen California’s social fabric. A healthy campus climate and the accompanying educational benefits depend on a diverse student body.

ACA 5 seeks to repeal Proposition 209, the state constitutional provision passed in 1996 that prohibits California from granting preferential treatment to (or discriminating against) 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. While the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that schools may use race as a factor in admissions decisions in certain circumstances, Proposition 209 categorically prohibits California universities from any such consideration, even if there is a compelling reason and carefully tailored approach for doing so.

The state Assembly approved the amendment 60-14, easily clearing a two-thirds requirement. The legislation is now in the state Senate where it must also pass with a two-thirds margin before a June 25 deadline. If approved, ACA 5 will come before voters on the Nov. 3 general election ballot, where it would require a majority vote for passage.

A video of the Board’s full discussion can be found here.