Regent Proposes Reversal of 209 to Repair Reputation

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A UC Regent said yesterday he is preparing a proposal to reverse the university's groundbreaking ban on the use of racial and gender preferences in admissions decisions.

William Bagley, a San Francisco lawyer and a member of the UC Board of Regents since 1989, said he is gathering support to overturn the 1995 ban.

Although approval by the regents would send a symbolic message to prospective students, it would not reinstate the use of racial and gender preferences since California voters made the ban a state law with the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996.

"We should rescind the part of the resolution that puts the university in the vortex of the issue," Bagley said yesterday. "It would tell the world that it has perhaps misperceived that the minority community is not welcome."

Since the highly-publicized passage of Proposition 209, other state governments have battled over the use of racial preferences. Texas, Florida, Michigan and Washington have recently passed or are attempting to pass legislation that would end the use of affirmative action in admissions decisions for their public university systems.

Bagley said unless the regents pass his proposal, the university risks being known as the poster child for the move to end affirmative action.

"We need a new face on the university," he said. "It shouldn't be labeled as the leader of the force against affirmative action. We should not be the leaders of an effort that has now taken national proportions. We made ourselves the leaders. Of course we're for outreach, of course we're for 209, but we're no longer the sponsors."

An overturn by the regents would make underrepresented minority students more likely to apply, Bagley said.

But Regent Ward Connerly, who publicly championed the ban on racial and gender preferences both within the UC system and statewide, said application statistics reporting an increase in underrepresented minorities show that students have not been as disillusioned as Bagley claims.

"Recent figures show the university has dispelled a notion that he has been largely responsible for creating," Connerly said. "That was stupid then and it is stupid now. If that is the perception, then why are they applying here in such large numbers?"

Connerly said he doubted the proposal would ever appear on a UC Board of Regents agenda, and that if it did it would receive little support.

"He's been talking about this now for five years and I don't think anything is going to come of it," he said. "He's got blinders on and I don't think he's serving the university well by continuing to beat this drum. I doubt he'll get a second."

Despite the bipartisan makeup of the board, outreach efforts have been successful and well-received, Connerly added.

"Everybody has said ‘let's all come together and do what we can to make it unneccessary to make underrepresented minorities need a preference,'" he said.

Student Regent Michelle Pannor said she would vote for a proposal to reverse the ban.

"I think that I would be supportive if he puts it on the agenda," she said.

UC Berkeley released statistics last week showing that the number of black and Latino UC applicants is rising at a rate faster than the number of white and Asian applicants.


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