Appeals court upholds ban on considering race in UC admissions
A 1996 voter initiative that banned consideration of race in the University of California admissions decisions doesn't violate the Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in the latest challenge brought by affirmative-action advocates.
Civil rights activists and minority students sued then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and UC President Mark Yudof two years ago, seeking to restore racial preferences to increase the ranks of black, Latino and Native American students. Consideration of race in the state university admissions policy was banned by Proposition 209.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco was dismissed last year by Judge Samuel Conti, citing previous federal court rulings that Proposition 209 passes constitutional scrutiny.
The suit alleged that banning racial consideration in admissions to public higher education institutions resulted in the unfair exclusion of minority students and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
"Proposition 209 has created a racial caste system in which the state's most prestigious schools train mostly white students and students from some Asian backgrounds," said the suit, brought by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and other rights groups.
The suit also criticized the university system for relying too heavily on high school grades and test scores in admissions, saying that discriminates against students from schools without strong honors programs.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals cited previous rulings by the court in saying "there was simply no doubt that Proposition 209 — which amended the California Constitution to add [the ban on racial consideration] is constitutional."
The court cited its decision in a 1997 challenge to Proposition 209, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
— Carol J. Williams
Photo: A 1996 voter initiative that banned consideration of race in the University of California admissions decisions -- including at UCLA, pictured above -- doesn't violate the Constitution. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times