On Jan. 30, the California Senate approved Senate Constitution Amendment No. 5 (SCA 5), a proposal that would allow schools in the University of California (UC) system to factor in an individual’s race and gender into the admissions process. SCA 5 would negate parts of Proposition 209, a ballot created in 1996 that prohibits the consideration of race, gender and national origin during admission procedures.
SCA 5 was proposed in December 2012 by Senator Ed Hernandez of West Covina. Hernandez also created the controversial Senate Bill 185 (SB 185) in 2011, an earlier attempt to repeal Proposition 209 that was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.
“A blanket prohibition on consideration of race and gender was a mistake in 1996 and we are still suffering the consequences today,” Hernandez said in a public statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The purpose of the bill is to create a balanced demographic in higher education in California. According to the Washington Post, within the minority groups, Asian-Americans make up the majority of the current freshmen at UC schools at 36 percent, twice the percentage of Asians in California.. Furthermore, a 2011 survey by The Public Policy Institute of California discovered that 75 percent of California respondents found it either somewhat or very imperative to have racially diverse demographics in public universities.
“If we do not consider one’s ethnicity in terms of college admissions, we [would] not be considering the disadvantages they have had to go through and the [amount of] self-motivation needed for them to succeed as much as they possibly could have,” junior Monying Dominguez said.
However, Hernandez’s proposal has sparked much controversy and debate. Some argue that SCA 5 is in violation of the 14th Amendment, which maintains that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Several online petitions, including one from Change.org and the White House website, have circulated and garnered thousands of signatures against the proposal.
In addition, opponents of SCA 5 argue that the bill will not be a solution for the underrepresentation of minority groups in universities and colleges, and that it empowers public institutions to discriminate.
“[Admissions] should be awarded based [by] merit, not demographics. By placing a limit on the amount of Asians that are allowed to go to college, we are denying proper education to a large sum of the population,” junior Jonathan Ngo said. “This bill was created for the purpose of having racial equality. However, [it] is counterproductive [because] it is unfair and discriminatory to one race. The chance to go to college is one that should be earned; every individual has the ability to perform well academically, regardless of race.”
If SCA 5 does not reach the 2014 November ballot, it will potentially go on the 2016 ballot to correlate with the next presidential election.