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Think. Discuss. Act. Affirmative Action

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Review: Minorities Fall at Universities in California

S. Stecklow. (1, April, 1998). “Minorities Fall at Universities in California.” The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, 3, 8, 6.


(Download Minorities Fall overview as a PDF)

Does affirmative action in universities lead to reverse discrimination against white and American Asian student applicants? The 1995 resolution of California’s Board of Regents and the 1996 approval of Proposition 209 led to the elimination of affirmative action in California’s eight public universities. Beginning in the fall of 1998, these universities can no longer use the factors of race, ethnicity, or gender in considering their applicants.

Statistical Findings

  • The number of admitted underrepresented minorities (blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans) at the University of California at Berkeley plummeted from 1,897 in 1997 to 818 in 1998-a 54.7% drop. In stark contrast, the number of admitted Asian-Americans rose 7.7%; whites rose 3.2%.
  • At the University of California at Los Angeles, the number of admitted underrepresented minorities dropped to 36%; particularly, the number of blacks fell 42.6%, Mexican-American and Hispanics declined 33.1%, and Native Americans dropped 43.2%. The number of whites also dipped 5.1%. The number of Asian Americans rose 0.8%.
  • The Riverside campus of University of California showed an increase in the number of admitted underrepresented minorities.
  • At Berkeley in fall of 1998, of the rejected underrepresented applicants, 800 had a GPA of 4.0 and a combined SAT scores of at least 1,200.

Note that thousands of applicants and admitted students did not state their ethnicity, as it is not mandatory. College admission officials widely believe the majority of those students are white and Asian-American.

Differing Views

  • Kevin Anderson (Berkeley senior and editor of the Onyx Express, a black campus newspaper) states that he would advise black students to attend other private universities, because they will soon be a scarcity on campus in the future.
  • Robert M. Berdahl (Berkeley‘s Chancellor) says that he supports affirmative action and is frustrated by the constrains of the new law. He believes that Berkeley did well in the old system. Other Berkeley university officials emphasized their commitment to increase diversity on campus while also abiding by the law.
  • Thomas Wood (co-author of Proposition 209 and the Regents’ resolution) says, ” ‘It is a worthwhile goal to pursue diversity, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. What these numbers show are proof positive that before Proposition 209 and the Regents’ resolution, the University of California was discriminating against white and Asian-American students.’ “


The article presented various statistics and basic views on the issueof affirmative action. The article concludes that the ethnic composition of future classes in prestigious schools like UCLA and Berkeley will likely be comprised of less blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, and more whites and Asian-Americans. It further speaks of an expected shift of under-represented groups to less selective schools within the state’s public universities.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Are the statistical findings, such as those noted in this article, relevant to your decision in support for or against affirmative action in universities? Why or why not?
  2. If you were on the California Board of Regents, would you support the abolition of affirmative action in the state universities? Explain.
  3. What are the positive and negative effects of abolishing affirmative action in universities? What are some other ways in which universities can increase diversity on campuses?


  • The long-standing problem of racism and discrimination persists today. The pain of those who are alienated is deep, yet so too are the racist roots of the majority. Affirmative action is one of our nation’s responses to combat discrimination. If we dismiss this in our universities, there may be a spiral of negative effects for the minorities: they will not have the same opportunities to go to prestigious schools, to continue on to professional schools, build good networks, and accept meaningful, empowering jobs.
  • Affirmative action does not equate to special treatment for minorities, which strips equality from the majority. Ellis Cose, in his book, Color-Blind, sees it as one way to simply “level the playing field.”

Lee Ka
© 2018 CYS

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