The Public Interest

Farewell to preferences?

Stephan Thernstrom

Winter 1998

RECENT headlines tell an alarming story about how the University of California’s law and medical schools are being affected by the July, 1995 vote of the Regents to eliminate “race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin” as a basis for admissions, hiring, or contracting by the university: “Black Enrollment at Law School Plummets in California”; “Policy Shift Turning Law School Faces White”; “Steep Drop in Minority Students Hits Law Schools”; “UC Law Schools at Wits’ End as Minorities Go Elsewhere”; “Fewer Minorities Apply to UC Medical Schools”; “UC San Diego Medical School Takes No Blacks for Fall Class.” The color-blind policy went into effect for graduate admissions for the 1997-98 academic year and will be extended to undergraduate admissions for 1998-99. How drastically will the end of racial and ethnic preferences alter the racial composition of the student body of the nation’s leading state university? The first returns are now in. “As debate over affirmative action continues nationwide,” one reporter observes correctly, “UC has emerged as case study number one.”

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