California universities and Affirmative Action

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(AP) – University of California leaders weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court case over the use of affirmative action in college admissions Monday, arguing that it’s necessary to consider race to ensure student diversity on selective campuses.

UC President Mark Yudof and 10 campus chancellors filed a “friend of the court” brief to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to consider a challenge to the University of Texas‘ use of race in undergraduate admissions.

The university leaders point to UC’s struggles to create diverse student bodies in the 16 years since California voters banned affirmative action in public hiring, contracting and university admissions.

After the passage of Proposition 209 in November 1996, the proportion of underrepresented minorities declined substantially at its most competitive campuses, particularly UC Berkeley and UCLA, as well as elite graduate and professional schools, according to the brief.

“In a highly selective institution, implementing race-neutral policies leads to a substantial decline in the proportion of entering students who are African American, American Indian and Latino,” threatening its ability to train a diverse set of leaders, the administrators wrote in the brief.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the University of Texas case in February, setting the stage for its first ruling on affirmative action in higher education since 2003.

Abigail Fisher, a white student who was not admitted to the university in 2008, is challenging the UT system’s consideration of race as a factor in admissions decisions, arguing that the policy violated her civil and constitutional rights.

UT officials say the policy allows the university to gain the benefits of a diverse student body.

After California banned affirmative action, voters in Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington state and Nebraska approved similar bans with similar results.

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