This Date in UCSF History: Regents Do The Right Thing


[Originally published in Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper, May 24, 2001] The University of California Board of Regents erased an embarrassing stain on the university’s reputation last week by rescinding their 1995 ban on affirmative action.

Cheered on by demonstrators at the meeting at UCSF’s Laurel Heights campus, the regents voted 22-0 to repeal the policies against preferences in admissions and hiring.

The move was largely symbolic — Prop 209, passed by California voters in 1996, forbids the university from returning to affirmative action in admissions policies. Nevertheless, the regents’ vote was seen as an important step.

“We want everybody who is qualified to have a fair and equal chance,” said Regent John Davies.

“This is a victory for the University of California. Today, I am proud to be a member of the UC community. I’m proud to be a Regent,” said Student Regent Justin Fong.

Fong, who according to news accounts played an instrumental role in guiding the vote, was thrilled with the outcome.

“This is a victory for the University of California,” he said. “Today, I am proud to be a member of the UC community. I’m proud to be a regent.”

The regents’ move is another happy step away from the vicious politics that characterized the reign of former Governor Pete Wilson.

Wilson’s crusade against affirmative action, coupled with his attacks on immigrants, amounted to a politics of hate directed at California’s citizens of color.

Last week’s action by the regents is the latest evidence that the state has decisively turned away from Wilson’s wrongheaded vision.

Census figures show that no racial or ethnic group is in the majority in California. In a state with such breathtaking diversity, the evil banality of racial prejudice is clearly out of place.

To deny an education or a job to a person because of prejudice, be it racial, ethnic, or sexual, seems increasingly ridiculous and out of place in the new California.

Supporter of affirmative action have vowed not to be content with the vote taken by the regents. In the heady aftermath of the regents’ vote, there was talk of mounting a campaign to repeal Prop 209 and restore affirmative action.

Clearly, the struggle is not finished, and the state has a long way to go to reach the goal of a diverse and racially harmonious society.

But the regents’ vote was a milestone along the way. They are to be congratulated for their action.