A proposal by UC Regent Ward Connerly that would eliminate “race” check-boxes on employment forms, police records and UC applications by 2005 has drawn criticism from the other regents as well as student organizations and UC student governments.
The proposal, titled the “Racial Privacy Initiative,” will be on the 2002 ballot and if passed by California voters would prevent state agencies from “classifying any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment.” If passed, information gathered on UC applications regarding ethnicity would either be withheld from the public or eliminated altogether.
“We want to assure people that UC does in fact have a colorblind admissions process and that state and local governments do have colorblind hiring and contracting policies,” said Kevin Nguyen, executive director of American Civil Rights Coalition.
The ACRC – headed by Connerly – turned in 980,283 signatures April 19 to state election officials. The proposal needed 670,816 signatures to make it on the November 2002 ballot.
Information gathered on admissions applications regarding ethnicity is withheld from admissions officers until the student is admitted. From there, the data is aggregated and released to outreach programs, the federal government and the public.
“Once students are admitted the information is used for all different types of outreach programs and to see how numbers are looking over the years and if things are really getting better,” External Vice President of Statewide Affairs-Elect Isabel Millan said. “If the black community’s numbers have been dropping, outreach services can use that to target specific communities.”
Nguyen said outreach programs could be more effective if targeted along socioeconomic or geographic lines. Questions of race or ethnicity on government forms are invasive and “inherently private in nature,” he said.
“Often there’s a factor of fear or annoyance or outright anger when presented with the race question on forms,” Nguyen said. “We want to allow people to assert their racial privacy. We want race to be treated the same way as religion or sexual orientation. When was the last time you saw a religion or sexual orientation inquiry on a government form?”
Information about race is presently used in government studies about health, socioeconomic and educational opportunities across California.
2001-2002 College Republicans Chair Jonathan Kalinski said emphasis should be placed on providing a better education for the children of low-income families rather than leveling numbers at the university level.
“We should branch out to everybody. We don’t need to narrow it down to say we need a few more of some particular ethnicity; we should get the best of the best,” he said.
Eliminating racial tracking will also save the California state government millions of dollars annually, Nguyen said. Other regents have not supported the initiative publicly because of pressure through the Latino caucus of the state Assembly, he said.
“I can assure you that Regent Connerly isn’t alone in wanting to move beyond race, but you wouldn’t get any other regents to go on the record because it’s very difficult for them to endure the pressure or name-calling that Regent Connerly has routinely faced,” he said. “After all, who wants to be called a racist by Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson?”