California Admissions Ruling Challenged

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A coalition of civil rights groups is bringing a new challenge to a California law that prohibits the state from considering race in state university admissions.

The lawsuit was filed in Oakland on Feb. 16 by the Michigan based Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. The suit challenges the constitutionality of the law, which was approved by California voters in 1996 and is known as Proposition 209. A similar measure was passed in Michigan in 2006.

“The plaintiff Latina/o and black students now ask this Court to strike down Proposition 209’s ban on affirmative action at the University of California because Proposition 209 has been the sentry at the gate, denying the plaintiffs the chance for an equal and integrated education as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education, and the proudest legal traditions of California and of the nation,” the suit reads in part.

Proposition 209 has drawn many lawsuits in California state courts since its enactment on the grounds that it has curbed minority enrollment at state universities.

In the meantime, the University of California system schools said there’s little they can do to alleviate the problem.

“If this opens up another discussion, that’s well and good, but, as long as Proposition 209 is the law, we’re obliged to follow it,” University of California spokesman Steve Montiel told the Oakland Tribune.

The lawsuit acknowledges the schools’ inability to circumvent the law, but did praise it for attempting to work within it.

“The UC has, to its credit, attempted to mitigate the effects of Proposition 209—such as considering socioeconomic class, using comprehensive file review, admitting the top 4 percent of every high school, varying the weight of tests and other admissions criteria, considering the opportunities available at one’s high school, etc.—but in report after report, the UC has shown that none of these measures can halt the fundamental trend toward re-segregation if Proposition 209 remains in effect and affirmative action remains banned,” the lawsuit says.