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Governor Jerry Brown vetoed State Senate Bill 185 earlier this month on the grounds that it would go against the precedent set by Proposition 209, a related public referendum passed in 1996.
If passed, SB 185 would have allowed public universities in California to consider an applicant’s race, gender and socio-economic status during the admissions process. While it authorized but did not mandate these policies, many argued that it would challenge Prop 209, which prohibits affirmative action involving racial or gender-based quotas in California’s public universities.
UCSB College Republicans President Steven Begakis said the Governor’s veto took a crucial stand against legalizing racial discrimination.
“I am glad that he vetoed the bill,” Begakis said. “I am glad that he stood up against racial discrimination in college admissions; I am glad he did not cave to the pressure on it.”
While the bill sparked debate primarily due to the racial classification it entailed, Executive Vice President for Statewide Affairs Ahmed Mostafa said underprivileged students would have benefited from the measure’s consideration of household incomes.
“What I really liked from the bill is that it took into account socio-economic factors for people of low incomes who go to very rich high schools,” Mostafa said. “Many students in the UC community are disappointed that the bill did not pass.”
However, Begakis, a fourth-year political science major, said the bill threatened California’s historical opposition of racial considerations in the public university admissions process.
“[If the bill had passed,] I think there would have been a public outcry,” Begakis said. “California was very progressive in eliminating racial considerations in admissions and to go back to bringing race into it would have been viewed as taking a step backward.”
In a statement released following his decision, Governor Brown said he supports the bill’s goals, ascribing his veto to governmental checks on the state legislature.
“Our constitutional system of separation of powers requires that the courts — not the Legislature — determine the limits of Proposition 209,” Brown said in a press release. “Indeed, there is already a court case pending in the 9th circuit against the State and the UC on the same issues addressed in this bill. Signing this bill is unlikely to impact how Proposition 209 is ultimately interpreted by the courts; it will just encourage the 209 advocates to file more costly and confusing lawsuits.”