Equal by Fiat: Dismantling Affirmative Action at the University of California

Claudia Emilia Lavenant, University of California, Irvine

The Civil Rights Initiative (a.k.a. Proposition 209), approved by 54.6 percent of California voters in November of 1996, went into effect in 1997. Proposition 209 made it illegal for the University of California to "discriminate or grant preferential treatment to an individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin", and thus forbids "discrimination" in the awarding of contracts, hiring, or school admissions. This paper is an effort to explore the adaptations that the University of California has made with respect to changes in affirmative action policies. Furthermore, this paper addresses how each campus has dealt with diversity and equity issues in the wake of the proposition. The data for this study comes from in-depth interviews with UC officials and through archival sources. Interview questions specifically addressed the concrete implementation and repercussions of the proposition. The dismantling of affirmative action has created a vacuum for the UC as they struggle to meet their goals for representing the diversity of California's population. This paper will examine some of the adaptations that individuals and institutions have made within the UC system.

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Updated 05/20/2006