California Voters Refuse to Reinstate Affirmative Action Admissions at State Universities

By a considerable margin, voters in California rejected Proposition 16, which would have once again allowed state univerities to consider race in their admissions decisions. While some votes remain outstanding, 56 percent of California voters this year voted against the proposal that would have reinstated affirmative action.

The proposition was supported by most leaders of state government and the leaders of the state university systems. The State Senate passed the measure to place the proposition on the November 3 ballot by a vote of 30-10, following approval by the State Assembly by a vote of 60-14.

In 1996, voters in California passed Proposition 209 which banned the consideration of race in admissions decisions at California’s state-operated colleges and universities. Nearly 55 percent of state voters approved the measure.

Immediately after the ban on race-sensitive admissions was enacted, Black enrollments at the most prestigious campuses of the University of California plummeted. And today, nearly a quarter century later, Black enrollments at these campuses remains far below the level that existed prior to Proposition 209.


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  1. Affirmative Action is so important to maintaining black access to leadership positions in the private and public sectors that it is troubling to see it remains so unpopular even in one of the most liberal states of the Union.

    Even many black people fail to see that they deserve seats at Ivy League and flagship state universities, whether or not they have the highest test scores.

    Why? Because with few exceptions, American universities were conceived and justified as engines of economic development and institutions for disseminating knowledge — especially to backward communities — not just as temples of learning reserved for “the best and the brightest”.

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