SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind SP-1 and SP-2, the policies that eliminated the ability to consider race and gender in admissions, hiring and contracting.
The decision, largely symbolic because of Prop 209, which outlaws Affirmative Action programs in California, pleased student and minority leaders who have pressured the board to repeal SP-1 and SP-2 since their adoption in 1995.
“Whose University? Our University!” members of the California Statewide Affirmative Action Coalition chanted after the 22-0 vote.
“The board is making a sweeping statement in support of the University,” Regent S. Sue Johnson said. “[It is] moving the university forward in a way that does put out the welcome mat to underprivileged students, who previously felt they would not be accepted by the UC system.”
The adopted resolution, RE-28, stated that the UC will now “seek out and enroll a student body that demonstrates high academic achievement or exceptional personal talent, and that encompasses the broad diversity of backgrounds characteristic of California.”
The UC will also implement programs to retain all enrolled students and keep outreach programs to public schools strong.
Since the regents have decided to eliminate SP-1 and SP-2, they can move on to the “real business of getting all eligible students into the university,” California Lt. Gov. and Ex Officio Regent Cruz Bustamante said.
Although the act was symbolic, “symbolism is very important in making the lives of these students better,” Johnson said.
When SP-1 and SP-2 passed in 1995, the proportion of underrepresented minorities admitted to and enrolling in the UC system dropped dramatically for the 1997-98 school year. Those numbers have been on the rebound since that time, and nearly reached the 1997 levels this year. The number of underrepresented minorities admitted to the UC system between Fall 2000 and Fall 2001 increased by 17 percent.
Members of the UC Student Association spoke during the meeting’s public comment period to paint a picture of how minorities experience feelings of neglect and hardship under the UC system.
Students, professors, association representatives, government officials, alumni and other concerned citizens also gave their opinions to the regents for consideration.
“That unwelcome mat is before the front door of the UC,” Berkeley student Senator Gloria Fomero said. “I came here today to ask for the repeal of this unwelcome mat. I feel gratified to know there will be actions for the rescinding of this unfair policy.”
Up until the day before the vote, the regents were divided over RE-28. Tuesday, some aspects of the resolution were reworded and clarified to make it an obvious repeal of SP-1 and SP-2, Bustamante said, which secured the approval of the rest of the board.
“Yesterday, they were unsure if it would pass,” said Regent Ward Connerly, who wrote SP-1 and SP-2 and was instrumental in the passage of Prop 209. The regents compromised about the issue “for the sake of symbolism,” he said.
In a press release issued after the vote, Connerly expressed a desire to move past the debate, which he said would have stayed with the board for many meetings to come if they had not approved RE-28.
Connerly said SP-1 might have caused the perception that underprivileged minority students were not welcome at the UC, which was not how it was intended.
“The welcome mat, from my point of view, was always there,” Connerly said. “If this cleans it off, I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The regents said they are not yet certain how admissions will be set up under RE-28, which will affect all Fall 2002 applicants. UC President Richard Atkinson has asked the UC Academic Senate to conduct a thorough review of admissions policies, and include the use of quantitative formulas and the employment of “comprehensive, unitary review processes,” and then provide recommendations to the board.
Currently, there are three issues regarding admissions that need to be resolved, the most important being whether different criteria will be applied to different groups of students, Academic Council Chair Michael Cowan said.
The University bases admissions now on a “two-tier method,” in which 50 to 75 percent of students are admitted based on academic achievement such as grades and test scores. The remainder are chosen based on academic factors plus other considerations, such as extracurricular activities, talents, leadership or intellectual qualities, accomplishments in the context of disadvantaged circumstances and other factors.
The academic council may recommend the elimination or redesign of the two-tier method, or another possible alternative could be suggested to the regents, Cowan said.
The Board of Admissions and Relations to Schools within the Academic Council also will compare the admissions process across campuses, and whether quantitative measures like the SAT I or amount of AP classes should be required in determining minimum eligibility.