By Rakesh Gopalan
March 22, 2000
BERKELEY, Calif.-Nearly three-and-a-half years after Californians voted to ban affirmative action with Proposition 209, Phong La, president of the Associated Students of the University of California-Berkeley, maintains that passing the controversial referendum was a "premature" decision.
Many students and administrators at University of California schools said they feel the same way, and view the ballot initiative as a mistake.
The initiative, passed in November of 1996, outlawed public institutions from using preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity or gender.
Despite increased outreach programs targeted at underrepresented minority students - specifically Hispanic, Latino and black students - admissions officials at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Davis admit it has been difficult to maintain previous levels of representation of these minorities.
Richard Black, vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment at Berkeley, said many members of the university community recognize the benefits of affirmative action.
"Many individual staff members feel affirmative action is important," Black said.
Ultimately, however, the University of California Board of Regents and California state laws control the university's admissions criteria, he said.
"We are professionals and we follow policies of the Regents and the laws of California, even when those don't agree with our own personal positions," he added.
Yvonne Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services at Davis, said the administration and student body were generally in favor of affirmative action despite 209's passage.
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But much of the decision-making process went over their heads.