The Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 passed the California State Senate on June 24 with a nearly party-line vote. Republican State Senator Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita joined 29 Democrats to pass ACA 5. The amendment will repeal the 1996 Proposition 209 which prevented state government institutions from discriminating against or showing preference to any group of people in public employment, education, and contracting. ACA 5 will now move to the November 2020 ballot for Californians to make a final decision.
Affirmative action, in the university admissions context, is an institutional measure that promotes greater representation of underprivileged minority groups and women. If passed in November, UC San Diego and other public universities in the state will be able to implement affirmative action by using race as a factor in admissions to boost diversity. However, according to the 1978 Supreme Court case University of California v. Bakke, schools will not be able to use racial quotas to specify the number of students of each race that would be admitted.
“In public higher education, ACA 5 opens up opportunities for and recognition of individuals who face discriminatory obstacles growing up and every day, such as racism, sexism, socio-economic discrimination,” UCSD Asian & Pacific Islander Student Alliance Political Coordinator Dephny Duan said to The UCSD Guardian. “ACA 5 openly and directly aims to serve and lift the community of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, and women who have struggled with these discriminatory practices and whose struggles have been ignored historically and currently with color-blind practices.”
Although the plurality of undergraduate students at UCSD are Asian Americans, there is a stark contrast with other minority groups. African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders make up 2.8 percent, 0.4 percent, and 0.2 percent, respectively, of the undergraduate population. In conjunction with the removal of the SAT and ACT standardized testing requirements for applicants, ACA 5 will allow the University of California to address what it considers to be systematic and perpetual inequalities in its institution.
“It makes little sense to exclude any consideration of race in admissions when the aim of the University’s holistic process is to fully understand and evaluate each applicant through multiple dimensions,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a press release. “Proposition 209 has forced California public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state.”
However, the passage of this legislation has fueled contentious debate. Some white and Asian American groups argue that the repeal of Proposition 209 will legalize discrimination based on race in the admissions process. According to the California for Equal Rights campaign, the proposition actually promoted diversity in higher education, and ACA 5 will prevent that from continuing.
“ACA 5 is a lie and it legalizes discrimination, as correctly pinpointed by Senator Ling Ling Chang at today’s floor vote,” California for Equal Rights representative Dr. Wenyuan Wu said in a statement. “It is promoted by political propaganda based on ingenuine attacks on Proposition 209. In reality, since 1996, California has made strides in diversity and inclusion in public education, employment and contracting. UC has made substantial improvements in both enrollment and graduation prospects regarding underrepresented minority students.”
Other organizations like “Asian Students at Risk” have taken to social media to critique ACA 5 and claim that it will reduce the number of Asian Americans in top-tier universities. ASR was created in response to ACA 5, stating that the amendment is racially discriminatory against Asian Americans. In response to those statements, UCSD’s Asian & Pacific Islander Student Association have created their own campaign to explain the legislation in their perspective.
“We believed that their reasons for not supporting ACA 5 fuel the “model minority” myth, and worsen racial relations,” APSA Chair Victoria Pham said to The UCSD Guardian. “Furthermore, their misinformation that there will be a racial quota upon Asians is particularly harmful, as they are misleading individuals to believe that other communities of color are now a “threat” towards Asian students. Their position creates a racial wedge between them and other communities, when the goal should be to stand in solidarity with one another.”
APSA also claimed that although Asian Americans are often considered to be successful, there are still disparities between various subgroups.
“This assumption is also extremely dangerous in ways that have already been recognized, such as Hmong and other South East Asian communities, whose needs have been ignored and drowned out by this Myth,” APSA Political Coordinator Dephny Duan said. “Because ACA is a color-conscious piece of legislation, ACA 5 highlights these various experiences within the Asian community rather than blanket them with the Model Minority Myth and its assumptions of easy success, and it is crucial that these experiences are formally recognized and heard and would be unfair otherwise.”
If signed by the Governor, the amendment will be on the ballot for the presidential election on Tuesday November 3, 2020 and will require a simple majority vote. To learn more about ACA 5, refer to California’s legislative Information page.
Photo courtesy of the Public Policy Institute of California.
The UCSD Guardian reached out to UCSD administration, but they have not responded for comment.