Appellate court upholds affirmative action ban in California

Taryn Wobbema

A federal appeals court upheld California’s affirmative action ban Monday. The law banning the use of race, ethnicity and gender in determining college admissions passed in 1996. This was the second attempt to overturn it. Six states in the country ban affirmative action, including California, Michigan, Arizona, Nebraska, Okalahoma and Washington.

Advocates for affirmative action say the California ban excludes minority students and decreases campus diversity. The number of Black, Hispanic and Native American students enrolled at UCLA and Berkeley dropped by almost 50 percent the year after the ban took effect, the Associated Press reported. In the University of California system overall, it dropped by about a quarter, according to the New York Times.

Schools have tried to work around affirmative action through a number of means. In California, colleges give grades and standardized test scores less weight and compare applicants to students in the same community rather than with all the applicants in the state. Texas uses a similar system, the Times reports. It results in more enrollment from poor communities. In Washington, colleges look for students who come from poor families or excel at troubled schools. Even this can favor one minority group over another because of a state’s population. In Florida, for example, Hispanic students benefit most because a large number of high schools are predominately Hispanic, whereas Black students are more spread out.

In California, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans make up about 50 percent of high school graduates, but only 19.5 percent of this year’s freshman class at Berkeley, according to AP.

Maria Belman, a student at Berkeley who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit told AP: “All you have to do is walk into any classroom, and you can just see it. There’s like one Black or Latino student … To say that it isn’t a problem is just a lie.” She added that the lack of diversity makes the campus climate more hostile to minorities and pressures those who are there.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which involves a white student who was not admitted to the school and claims its use of affirmative action is discriminatory. According to the Associated Press, if the court decides against Texas, the ruling could definitively end consideration of race in public university admissions.

A previous Minnesota Daily article explained the University of Minnesota’s admissions policy, which, like at many state schools, is described as more “holistic” assessment of a students’ merit and circumstances.