UC students still back affirmative action

The Associated Press
Friday March 16, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Students indignant over the University of California’s ban on affirmative action are threatening to stop recruiting minority prospects. 

Jackie Melendez, a UC Berkeley student, told regents meeting at UCLA Thursday that she and others in outreach groups weren’t willing to encourage minority students to enroll in the nine-campus system with the ban in place. 

UC officials are reviewing applicants this month and will make offers soon. That usually means a month of intensive recruiting of minorities as top campuses like Berkeley and UCLA try to boost enrollment of blacks and Hispanics, which has slipped since affirmative action admissions stopped in 1998. 

Melendez said students wouldn’t deliberately try to dissuade prospective students, but “we feel that the truth about what it feels like to be a student of color at UC Berkeley is discouraging enough. I’d like to send an invitation for you to walk to my classes. Walk through a day of life at UC Berkeley with me.” 

Several minority outreach groups at Berkeley announced earlier this month they would not help with recruiting. Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl said Thursday that if they carry through the threat he will withhold about $27,000 in campus funds usually given to the groups for their participation. 

“I hope they change their minds,” he said. “I think they’ve done nothing to date that would indicate that they actually have discouraged students.” 

Affirmative action wasn’t on the regents agenda for the meeting this week, which wrapped up Thursday. But some on the board do want to repeal the ban, and it could come up at the May  

meeting, which will be held  

in San Francisco. 

Repealing the ban will not restore affirmative action. A year after regents voted to drop affirmative action, state voters made a similar decision with passage of the ballot initiative Proposition 209 that forbade using race or gender in most public programs, including education. 

Wednesday, more than 1,000 students rallied outside the regents’ meeting to demand that they vote for repeal of the ban.  

About 200 students later occupied a campus auditorium, forcing cancellation of a planned debate among Los Angeles mayoral candidates. 

Thursday, protests were much quieter with a small group marching outside the building where regents met. 

Also Thursday, regents got an update on the 10th campus, UC Merced, which is scheduled to start accepting students in fall 2004. 

Funding for construction, a total of $162 million, had been taken out of the state budget by the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee earlier this month.  

But on Wednesday a Senate subcommittee reinstated the money after hearing from Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey and others.