The UC Board of Regents on May 16 voted unanimously to rescind SP-1 and SP-2 - its six-year-old policies banning consideration of race and gender in admissions, hiring and contracting - and reaffirmed the university's commitment to a diverse student body.
In a session in San Francisco full of surprises and emotion, the regents approved, by a 22-0 vote, a resolution finalized only hours before by its sponsors, UC President Richard Atkinson, and state legislators.
"This is a great day for the University of California and the people of California," said UC President Richard Atkinson, who cast the final "yes" vote on the measure.
The regents charged the Academic Senate with developing new admissions criteria, set a tight deadline for putting those guidelines in place, and recommitted the university to outreach and retention programs designed to help prepare K-12 students for UC admission. At the same time, it acknowledged that the university is now governed by state law - enacted as a result of Proposition 209 - requiring it to disregard race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in admissions, hiring and contracting.
Chancellor Vanderhoef said the action reaffirms the campus's commitment to access.
"We are, in fact, more committed to fair and inclusive access than we ever have been, and our people work hard at making this happen. The rescission will, I believe, help remove any lingering doubts about this," Vanderhoef said.
A delegation of nine elected officials - including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, State Senator Gloria Romero, and Assembly members Dion Aroner, Wilma Chan, Jackie Goldberg, Jerome Horton and Marco Firebaugh - appeared in person to emphasize support for a "clear and unambiguous" repeal of SP-1 and SP-2.
Regents and legislators expressed the hope that Wednesday's action would send a clear message that the university is welcoming to all and would remove the board and UC from the center of public controversy.
"We are spending enough energy on this thing that we could light the city of L.A. for weeks," said Regent Ward Connerly, author of SP-1 and SP-2, in explaining his decision to support Wednesday's resolution.
Activists cheered action
Pro-affirmative action student activists inside and outside the auditorium - surprised to learn that the final resolution "rescinded" rather than "replaced" or "superseded" SP-1 and SP-2 - cheered the regents' action and vowed to continue their efforts.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a regent ex officio, offered a cautionary note: "The university is only as good as its K-12 feeder system. We have a lot of work ahead," she said, citing a projected shortfall of 300,000 public school teachers in California. "This is the beginning of a longer dialogue to dramatically increase the university's role in training teachers."
The Academic Senate is now charged with developing recommendations for revised admissions criteria, unrestricted by SP-1's requirement that 50 to 75 percent of applicants be evaluated on academic criteria alone. Faculty recommendations would go to the regents for approval, and be implemented by fall 2002.
According to Professor Michael Cowan, chair of UC's Academic Council, the faculty will take up such questions as how to weigh academic and motivational factors and whether to retain the SAT 1 or another quantitative measure of college preparedness.
Consistent with UC admissions policies, including SP-1, UC Davis has been making 60 percent of its admissions offers based on grades and SAT scores alone, said Associate Linguistics Professor Patrick Farrell. Farrell who has been studying the issue for the campus Academic Senate Admissions and Enrollment Committee.
For the remaining 40 percent of admissions offers UC Davis has been taking into account such factors as achievement in context, leadership potential, special talents and socio-economic and socio-academic disadvantage, he said.
"Although academic criteria will undoubtedly continue to play the most important role in admissions decisions, all applications could certainly be evaluated in terms of a broader set of criteria.
"It is still unclear, however, what general admissions guidelines will be adopted by the systemwide Academic Senate in the wake of the Regents' decision to return to the faculty the whole responsibility of making admissions policy."
Decision may affect perceptions
While the repeal of SP-2, which covers hiring and contracting, may impact the perception of UC as an employer by minority communities, it is not expected to significantly change policies and procedures, said Dennis Shimek, UC Davis' associate vice chancellor for human resources.
The resolution and background materials are available at www.ucop.edu/ucophome/ commserv/access/propres.htm.
Cathy Cockrell works on staff at the Berkeleyan, UC Berkeley's staff and faculty newspaper.