April 7, 2000


Opinion

Two Steps Backward, One Step Forward

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

When then-Governor Pete Wilson and Ward Connerly attacked California affirmative action in 1995, observers suspected that minority student enrollment would plummet at the University of California when the Wilson/Connerly cabal succeeded. They were right.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) experienced a 36% drop in minority admissions in 1998, the first year of the Wilson/Connerly anti-Affirmative Action policy. For this Fall, UCLA has mailed 10,752 acceptance letters to high school seniors. The combined "minority" acceptances of African American, Mexican American, Latino (non-Mexican Hispanics) and American Indian students total 1,544, 9.4% higher than last year. African Americans, however, have suffered a drop with 315 acceptances as against 329 last year.

In 1997, according to UCLA, 2,121 "minority" students were admitted. The difference is obvious, 577 fewer this year than just three years ago, a decline of 37%. Altogether, the University of California has accepted 7,336 "minority" students to its nine campuses out of 42,000 admissions, an increase of a mighty 100 more than in 1997 under Affirmative Action.

UCLA barely gets a passing grade in overcoming the Wilson/Connerly assault on the California higher education of the children of the "minority" California citizen taxpayer. The "minorities who toil hard to pay the excessively high regressive sales taxes that support the University of California are, however, having the last laugh.

Not at UCLA, but in the entire University of California system, in particular at the UC campus fronting the Pacific Ocean. There, young people study among the thousands of trees this writer once trained in when the campus was a United States Marine base, I speak of the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

African American acceptances improved 16.6% this Fall over last year, but are still 45% lower than 1997. Latino (non-Mexican origin) students are surpassing 1997's 266 students with 323 this year, a 21% increase. Mexican American students, who enrolled 1,161 students in 1997, fell precipitously in 1998 to 696, a 40% drop.

There is good news in this Fall's acceptances, however. A 14% increase over last year is but a start. The 953 Mexican American students accepted at UCSD this year are closing in on 1997's 1,161 students and are 37% more numerous than the disastrous 1998.

Similar increases in the next two years by Mexican American and Latino students will take their enrollment levels higher than ever. Did Pete Wilson and Ward Connerly have this in mind when they ended the 17-year-old University of California Affirmative Action? Who knows. Quien Sabe?

Do the 1998/1999 steep drops in "minority" student enrollment prove that Affirmative Action allowed non-deserving minority students into the University of California before the Wilson/Connerly coup? Maybe, but so what? The University of California has never been 100% full at all nine campuses. So who was denied a University of California (or Texas, Michigan or Virginia) seat because of race?

Sure, there are marginal students who weren't admitted to the campus of their first choice. But, there are guys who play basketball or football better. And there are kids like my nephew with his 4.75 Grade Point Average (on a 4-point scale) and so many Advanced Placement Test (APTs) scores and credits that he was admitted as a sophomore to UCLA. He's not the only one. There are thousands of young men and women who avail themselves of APTs to get advance college credit. This isn't new and such activities are looked upon warmly by university admissions officers.

Marginal applicants complain whether or not there is proof a minority student was accepted on the basis of skin color, or race. They rarely complain, however, when someone like former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley is accepted by a university for his athletic prowess, despite lower than average Scholastic Achievement Test scores, after all, he looks like them. They rarely complain when someone is admitted, even to UCLA and UC Berkeley, if their Daddy gives a million dollars to build a library wing or a student center. They rarely complain when someone is admitted because their Daddy is a personal friend of the Chancellor.

Actually, Ward Connerly, himself, complained about these practices and introduced a resolution to the University of California Board of Regents, most of who were appointed by Republican Governors Duekmejian and Pete Wilson. Governor Wilson didn't show to support his supplicant. Wilson's crony appointees voted down Connerly's resolution, much to his chagrin. Connerly found out that race does matter and that his racial "populist" views only prevail when "minorities" are involved. Somehow, he thought that the White University Regents who voted down "Affirmative Action" would frown on White students admitted for "legacy" and money reasons. Surprise! They didn't.

Nonetheless, for a "White" to blame race for non-acceptance at the University of California is a cop out, a wimp out. For a "minority" to blame race for non-acceptance at the University of California is a cop out, a wimp out, also. Excellence and hard work combine for acceptance to the University, not cry-babying. These acceptance numbers prove that.

Contact Contreras at www.raoul.net

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