By Yvette tenBerge
More than 100 students donned black T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Still separate and unequal," waved colorful signs with messages like "No university without diversity," and rattled aluminum cans full of coins at UCSD's Price Center Plaza on October 30 as part of a national campaign to pressure college administrators to increase their affirmative action efforts.
Petitions and roars of approval swept through the crowd as six students and one professor stood on stage to attest to what they see as the "unfairness" of current university admissions practices. Speakers also supplied information about the drop in acceptance rates for ethnic applicants since Proposition 209 went into effect in August 1997.
Proposition 209 prohibits state and local governments, district governing bodies, public universities, colleges and schools from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any individual or group in public employment, public education or public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.
Stephen Klass, 21, is an Ethnic Studies major who describes his reason for supporting affirmative action on University of California campuses. "What we have here at UCSD is the worst kind of segregation there is. It's where people look around and see some type of integration, so they think that's the end of the deal. They think that things are fine," says Mr. Klass. "We're here to tell everyone that segregation still exists, and they shouldn't let it happen."
Figures from UCSD's Student Research and Information Office show that the number of minority students enrolled as undergraduates has dropped since Proposition 209 was passed. In 1997, African-Americans made up two percent of the population, Mexican-Americans made up 8.6 percent of the population and Native-Americans made up .9 percent of the university's population. In 2001, the percentage of African-Americans attending UCSD dropped to 1.2 percent, the number of Mexican-Americans dropped to 7.6 percent and the percentage of Native-Americans dropped to .5 percent.
Students came together to demand that UCSD Admissions eliminate the general SAT 1 exam from the admissions process, that they support a holistic review of admission applications and that they repeal Proposition 209. A march to the offices of the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor followed the rally.
Jennifer Ganata, 19, is an Ethnic Studies and Urban Studies major who beat a drum decorated with feathers to show her support. "Since affirmative action ended in 1997, the numbers have decreased for students of color. It is unfair and obviously wrong that our campus isn't as diverse as our community. As a result of this lack of diversity, people are missing out," says Ms. Ganata. "Education isn't just about what you learn in the classroom, it's also about what you learn from the people around you."
According to the two-tiered admissions policy currently in place at UC schools, roughly 50 percent of students are admitted based solely on their SAT scores and their high school grade point averages. The essays and extra-curricular activities of the remaining 50 percent are considered. Denise Pacheco, a speaker at the rally and a member of the Student's Affirmative Action Committee, discussed why she believes these policies to be discriminatory against minority students.
"A student's high school grade point average is largely affected by advanced placement classes. Many underprivileged students do not attend schools where these classes are offered," says Ms. Ganata, referring to classes whose advanced curriculum lends to boosted grade point averages. "It has been proven that the SAT 1 test is culturally biased and many minorities aren't able to participate in the extra-curricular activities that other students are able to experience."
Among the groups that participated in this rally were the African-American Student Union, the Asian Pacific Student Alliance, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, Kaigiban Philipino, Students for Economic Justice and the Student Affirmative Action Coalition.