Trying to counter Prop. 209’s effects

<a href=""(U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The predictions that California’s Proposition 209 would erode the diverse student body on University of California campuses have come true in the past year. Since the implementation of Proposition 209, which outlawed affirmative action at the university, the enrollment of black, Latino and Native American students collectively dropped 9.5 percent.

But last Monday, California Gov. Gray Davis announced a plan that could negate Proposition 209. This plan, subject to passage by the University of California Board of Regents, should be adopted in order to restore many prospective students’ right to pursue quality higher education.

Davis’ proposal calls for all students graduating in the top four percent of their high school class to automatically gain admission to a University of California campus. This more localized approach would supplant the current system that requires the admission of the top 12.5 percent of students statewide. The current system gives students from affluent school districts an unfair advantage over students from less-privileged schools.

In addition to changing admission requirements to a local scale, Davis’ plan aims to decrease the emphasis placed on standardized tests, which often are biased against minority students. Some emphasis would be shifted to more student-friendly examinations, such as the SAT2, which allows students a degree of choice of subject.

Critics of Davis’ proposal will no doubt claim that such a plan could decrease the academic prestige and strength of future University of California classes, but such claims are unfounded. All students being admitted will satisfy grade point average and college preparatory class requirements. Also, students will not necessarily be admitted to every campus, likely leaving UCLA and Berkeley as the system’s most prestigious.

It is important that those reviewing admissions to the University of California’s campuses do so thoroughly to ensure all students have a chance to thrive at the university level and are not punished because their school districts are less equipped.

A diverse campus plays a large part in the development of well-rounded students. Students need exposure to a multitude of backgrounds to prepare them for an increasingly global society. Students benefit from experiencing the unique ideas and philosophies of different cultures and ethnicities.

The University of California Board of Regents should support Davis’ proposal when it comes up for a vote in March. And for now, the future in California appears promising – Davis himself has a seat on the 26-person board and he will be able to appoint new members over the course of his four-year term. But the current board should support Davis and restore hope to countless students currently trapped in the shadow Proposition 209 casts over California.

-Staff editorial of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Daily.

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