University of California endorses affirmative action measure

Students walk on the campus of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 2020. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The University of California’s governing board voted Monday to unanimously support a measure to restore affirmative action programs and repeal a controversial statewide ban that has been blamed for a decline in diversity in the prestigious university system.

The vote in a special meeting of the Board of Regents means UC endorses a proposal that would ask voters in November to repeal Proposition 209, a 1996 voter-approved law that banned “preferential treatment” for minority groups applying to state colleges and government jobs.

The proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution, which was backed last week by the state Assembly, must still pass the state Senate before it can go on the Nov. 3 statewide ballot.

The original sin of this country has to be addressed,” said regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who along with the other regents spoke passionately about the need to send a powerful message amid nationwide protests about racial injustice and inequality. “This is our opportunity to right a historical wrong.”

UC President Janet Napolitano, all 10 campus chancellors and the governing bodies for faculty, undergraduate and graduate students have expressed support for the measure.

In the meeting held by teleconference, Napolitano said that since the passage of Proposition 209, “many of us have watched with dismay and largely tied hands as the numbers of students of underrepresented groups at UC declined and plateaued.”

“The face of the university became one that does not fully represent the rich diversity of our state. That is detrimental to UC and it’s detrimental to California,” Napolitano said. “Now our state has a chance to take a different path.”