Interested in speaking for this Motion? Please contact Deborah Binder, the event host through Meetup.
In 1996, Proposition 209 amended the California state constitution to prohibit state government institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting or public education. In December 2012, the Senate Constitutional Amendment No.5 (SCA-5) was introduced in the California Senate. SCA-5 would ask voters to consider eliminating California Proposition 209’s ban on the use of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in recruitment, admissions, and retention programs at California’ public universities and colleges. The planned referendum sailed through the state Senate in January 2014 without fanfare on a party-line vote.
But then some state senators who had voted for SCA-5 had second thoughts, after receiving thousands of calls and emails from constituents concerned that any move to favor other ethnic groups could hurt Asian-Americans, who attend many of the state's best schools in large numbers. In a matter of weeks, a Change.org petition to squash the referendum collected more than 100,000 signatures. On March 17, Assembly Speaker John Perez announced that SCA-5 would be tabled for now. However, the state legislature still has many supporters of SCA-5 and they vow to revisit the proposed legislation next year.
The most contentious issue appears to be whether race and ethnicity should be allowed as a factor in admissions in the UC and CSU system. Those in favor of SCA-5 argue that since Proposition 209 was passed, there has been a large drop in the percentage of Latino, African American, and Native American students at California public universities despite a steady increase in college-eligible high school graduates from these groups. Reinstating some form of affirmative action in admissions would be a way to ensure that diversity is obtained and maintained in our colleges and therefore in the workplace.
Opponents to an amendment argue that college admissions should be based on merit and academic performance. Trying to “help” some groups will inevitably hurt others. College admissions are a zero-sum game: to make extra room for some college applicants means others, who otherwise would have been admitted, will not get in.
For this debate, we will be discussing the part of SCA-5 that appears most controversial, namely eliminating the ban on consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions. (Because “This House supports eliminating a ban…” sounds convoluted, the Motion’s wording will be more straightforward, albeit a bit truncated due to character restrictions).
So, what do you think? Should state colleges have the option to consider race and ethnicity in admissions? Or not?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this question. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.