Friday, April 25, 2014

Senate bill is a call to action

Last week I learned that the California Senate had approved SCA 5, a bill that would repeal provisions of Proposition 209, once again allowing the state of California to deny an individual or group’s rights to public education on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. SCA 5 would result in mandated discrimination against certain students applying to University of California campuses.

From a purely practical standpoint, a policy of rejecting high-performing students based on their ethnicity is a self-defeating idea that I hope our state has the brains to reject.

But the worst part is its racism.

I learned about the bill from father of a boy who’s been friends with my son since kindergarten at North Davis. This kid has always been amazing. In fourth grade, he wrote a three-part essay on the structure of the periodic table, just for fun. Last June, I had the pleasure of watching him and my son receive awards at the Holmes Junior High exit ceremony. They’ve grown into confident, funny, charming young men whom I hope will be lifelong friends.

It was a shock to me when his father shared his concerns about a bill that would limit the space available to Asian students in California’s higher education system. This young man is the kind of exceptional student that UC Davis would be lucky to enroll.

But he’s Chinese-American, and if SCA 5 passes, he’ll be in a population whose quota will be tightly restricted.

I have no doubt that he will get into any college or university he applies to. But would he want to attend a university at which he’s identified as belonging to a population whose numbers are limited by state mandate?

The look on my friend’s face when he shared his concern spoke volumes. This is a law that would hurt his son. It’s ugly. It’s self-defeating for California’s public universities. It goes against everything our supposedly enlightened state stands for.

I urge everyone to sign’s online petition to the California Assembly, urging it to reject this legislation, and to contact our Assembly representatives.

Sharon Knox

Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 10 comments

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  • greg johnsonFebruary 26, 2014 - 8:23 am

    It goes against everything our supposedly enlightened state stands for. I disagree. I have to admit that this is the first I've heard of this bill. However, sadly, I think it represents exactly what California stands for. That is, the desire to create equivalence of outcome vs. equivalence of opportunity, aka socialism. I am witnessing the country, with California taking the lead, devolve into a socialist country. Many are trying to eat away at the fabric of what made us, at one time at least, the greatest country in the world. Very sad!!

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  • Eric GelberFebruary 26, 2014 - 12:09 pm

    It is important not to mislead in discussing the significant issues raised by SCA 5. SCA 5 is a resolution, not a bill, which, if passed by a 2/3 vote of both houses of the Legislature, would place before the voters an amendment to the California Constitution that would remove prohibitions on the UCs and CSUs from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity, sex, or national origin in their admissions processes. Thus, SCA 5 would not “repeal provisions of Proposition 209”; it would merely give the voters an opportunity to determine if Prop. 209 should be modified. The fact is, minority enrollment in the UC and CSU system dropped significantly since passage of Prop. 209. If the voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, it would not “result in mandated discrimination” against certain students applying to UC campuses, and certainly would not authorize the use of quotas. Any consideration of race, ethnicity, etc. in university admissions would be subject to strict scrutiny and would have to adhere to the very narrow federal constitutional standards enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court—requiring that admissions policies be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest, such as the interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

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  • Rich RifkinFebruary 26, 2014 - 3:24 pm

    "The fact is, minority enrollment in the UC and CSU system dropped significantly since passage of Prop. 209." ........... Eric, that is completely false. Minority enrollment (meaning non-white) has never been higher than it is today in the UC system at every single campus. At UCD, for example, whites make up just 34% of the students. The minority percentage of the UC student body has steadily grown over the last 10 years, both among undergrads and graduate and professional students.

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  • Eric GelberFebruary 26, 2014 - 3:55 pm

    Well, it depends on how you look at it. There was a significant drop immediatly following the passage of Prop. 209. And, as the author of SCA 5 notes, "Recent reports have shown that California high schools are graduating more underrepresented students who are UC and CSU eligible, but are not enrolling in those institutions at the same rate. In 1995, before Prop. 209 took effect, underrepresented minority studnets accounted for 38% of California high school graduates and 21 percent of entering UC freshman, a difference of 17%. In 2009, they made up 52% of high school graduates but had fallen to 28% of incoming UC freshmen in 2010, a difference of 24%. This gap will continue to widen as California becomes increasingly diverse."

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  • Puddin TaneFebruary 27, 2014 - 10:16 am

    Forgive me Eric, but I'm not sure how minority students going from 21% of entering freshmen to 28% of entering freshmen counts as a drop, perhaps you can enlighten me? While you're at it, can you clarify if Asian students are included in the figure of minority students, and if not, why aren't they? It seems to me that the problem lies with preparing these students for the rigors of higher education, since they are not meeting admission standards for their academics. A more appropriate solution would be to focus on improving education in more impoverished areas in order to give the kids the academic tools to succeed in higher education, not throwing kids who are unprepared for the rigors of academia into universities where they will fail.

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  • February 26, 2014 - 12:25 pm

    Regardless of race or socioeconomic background, it comes down to personal responsibility in getting ahead in life. If someone doesn’t have the grades in H.S. to get into higher education, they can work hard at a community college and then transfer to their university or college of choice. If someone gets in under the helping hand of affirmative action, they will most likely have a tough time with the academic curriculum and in turn, their graduation rates will be lower. A racist unfair bill like SCA 5 will harm everyone, especially the groups it intends to prop up. Academic merit, and NOT affirmative action is the only fair way to admit students. I’ll vote NO on SCA 5 if it appears on Novembers ballot.

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  • February 26, 2014 - 3:32 pm

    This bill is nothing more than a way for California liberals to discriminate against Asians. Liberals are the true racists of our society.

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  • Prof7February 26, 2014 - 5:15 pm

    There are some over-active imaginations here. The bill says nothing about Asians or quotas. Why assume Asians will be discriminated against? Note that the term "Asian" itself is useless in this context, given the wide variety among various groups of people with ethnic origins in the vast, vast area of the world referred to as "Asia" or even "East and Southeast Asia"; no admissions committee would be interested in such a demographically and socioeconomically heterogeneous category. One might as well say "people". In any case, why be up in arms specifically because Asians might be discriminated against? What about other groups who might be discriminated against? And finally, why use the word "discrimination" at all until there is any evidence of it? Just because high school students are nervous about college admissions doesn't mean we should automatically go all the way to discrimination. That kind of overreaction doesn't help students cope with their anxiety. The talented student referred to in this letter should be reassured that he will get into an excellent college -- because he will.

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  • Sharon KnoxFebruary 26, 2014 - 6:36 pm

    Thanks to everyone who clarified that SCA 5 is a referendum for a constitutional amendment, and not a bill. Here is a website which indicates the exact changes to Prop 209: specifically the removal of the words "public education" from those state institutions where non-discrimination is mandated; and specifically names the University of California and California public schools as not included in "State," i.e no longer covered by Prop 209. As for the "overactive imaginations" referred to in the comments here -- my own or that of my Chinese friend or others -- the missing context is that in 2011, the sponsor of SCA 5 introduced an education bill, SB 185. SB 185 would authorize the University of California and the California State University to adopt discriminatory admission standards. That would be unconstitutional under Prop. 209. So this modification to Prop 209 is the first step paving the way for a bill that will authorize discriminatory standards. It doesn't take a terribly active imagination to see where this is going.

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  • campingfunMarch 01, 2014 - 11:46 am

    Right now, CA is ranked the 48th in US in k12 education, parents and teachers are working hard to help out kids in this situation. Politicians really should think hard to change that. Instead they are destroying the only shining stars left, quality and reputation of UC and CSU. There is no winner in the long term for anyone.

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