The Detroit Free Press has an interesting, long article, with charts and numbers, on the effects of California’s Proposition 209 (which banned the consideration of race and ethnicity by the state in admissions and employment) on the admission of minorities into the university system.
The new race-neutral policy went into effect in 1998, and the article presents a chart showing the racial composition of the freshman classes in 1995, 1998, and 2002 in the university system as a whole (all eight campuses), at Berkeley, and at UCLA.
I’m not going to reproduce all the numbers, or summarize the rest; go look at the whole thing. I will mention only two items that struck me as especially interesting. First, and not surprisingly, the introduction of colorblind admissions (at least in theory) had the most dramatic effect on blacks and Hispanics. Now, see if you can guess what I found most interesting about these numbers:
Of the groups in which admissions declined, admission of black students declined the most. At the eight campuses, black students made up 4.4 percent of students admitted in 1995, 3.2 percent in 1998 and 3.5 percent in 2002. At Berkeley, they made up 7.2 percent of the admissions in 1995, 3.2 percent in 1998 and 4.1 percent in 2002. At UCLA, those numbers were 6.6 percent in 1995, 3 percent in 1998 and 3.5 percent in 2002.
Hispanics made up 15.8 percent of the admissions at the eight campuses in 1995, 12.8 percent in 1998 and 15 percent in 2002. At Berkeley,they made up 18.4 percent in 1995, 8.4 percent in 1998 and 13.1 percent in 2002. At UCLA, those numbers were 20 percent in 1995, 9.9 percent in 1998 and 13.9 percent in 2002.
I’m sure most of you guessed what I found odd: Berkeley and UCLA are the most selective campuses in the system, but the percentages of blacks and Hispanics they admitted were higher than for the system as a whole before Prop. 209 put an end to preferences. Interesting. It appears that minority admissions at Berkeley and UCLA were hit hardest by the end of preferences because the preferences there had been greater than at the other six, less selective campuses.
Moreover, according to the 2000 census blacks made up 6.7% of California’s population, and yet in 1995 they were 7.2% of the entering class at Berkeley. Whites make up 59.7% of the population, but in 1995 they were 28.6% of the entering class at UCLA, and 32.9% at Berkeley. Asians were, and are, substantially “overrepresented.” In 2002 blacks were 4.1% of the entering class at Berkeley, making them less “underrepresented” than the whites at 32.8%. Of course, I find racial and ethnic “representation” not only obnoxious as a standard, but exceedingly out of place as an admissions standard at a highly selective university.
Moving beyond the California numbers to the text of the Free Press article, written primarily one assumes for an audience of Michiganders who are now facing the prospect of their own ballot initiative to eliminate preferences, I found the following discussion revealing:
Polls have shown that a majority of Americans and Michiganders oppose the use of racial preferences. But many of America’s top universities and corporations have long held that affirmative-action programs are crucial in developing student bodies and workforces that represent the nation’s diversity.
They also have concluded that societal barriers to entry and achievement in school and at work make it reasonable to consider race, gender and ethnicity as factors in admissions and hiring decisions.
Isn’t that “but” wonderful? Most Americans, and most Michiganders, oppose racial preferences, but “top universities and corporations” want them anyway! Also note how even these authors shy away from acknowledging that “top universities and corporations” want “racial preferences,” which the uncouth masses oppose. No, they want “affirmative action,” which sounds much better (because it’s less descriptive). Also, all they want to do, the article says, is “to consider” race, gender, and ethnicity. Who but a lowlife could be against something so open, so obviously fair, as consideration? It sounds downright inconsiderate to oppose such a thing.
If MCRI succeeds in showing the people of Michigan that the initiative will eliminate racial preferences, it will win. If the “top universities and corporations” succeed in obfuscating that truth, they may succeed in preserving their ability to continue discriminating on the basis of race.