Passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in November 2006 by a wide margin (58 to 42) dramatically accelerated the pace of the movement started by California’s Proposition 209 to end the use of racial and gender preferences in public education and employment. A direct consequence of the encouraging Michigan result was the introduction of five more state initiatives, three of which in Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska qualified for the ballot. Passage of these proposals could signal a decisive change in the national outlook for preferences, and accordingly, the California Association of Scholars decided that this would be the right time to mount a conference on “Racial and Gender Preferences at the Crossroads.” It was held on January 19, 2008, at the University of Southern California. We decided to focus on three questions. First, what is the latest state of knowledge and opinion on the damage that preferences do? Second, what has happened in California since Proposition 209 passed? And third, what will happen in the five state campaigns this year, and how will that affect the national climate with respect to preferences?
Those questions became the three panels of the conference. The keynote speaker was Ward Connerly, founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute.