Last month we published this letter from CAS president John Ellis and chairman Charles Geshekter, stating their opposition to SB 185. This bill, as they noted, would reinstate race-based admissions policies in California, in violation of the state's constitution as amended by Propostion 209. The bill is now being considered by the assembly in the state legislature, and they present their objections to the Committee on Higher Education.
A PDF version of the following letter is available here.
June 20, 2011
California Assembly Committee on Higher Education
Via facsimile: 916-319 3961
RE: Oppose SB185
Dear Chair Block,
The California Association of Scholars opposes SB185.
Everyone who cares about the success of minority students should vigorously oppose this bill. It is a simple fact of human nature that if you tell people you expect less of them, that is what you will get. A student’s academic achievement depends on his or her determination to succeed; weakening the student’s resolve and replacing it with a sense of entitlement is destructive, and it amounts to a cruel hoax. It encourages students to believe that they can get into UC without working as hard as others need to do, but this is precisely the time in their development when they should be doing all that they can to get the preparation that they will need to do well when they reach college. And so, affirmative action lays the groundwork for failure in college.
For some time, this undermining of student motivation by the academic regime of racial or ethnic preferences has hampered minority achievement. Empirical studies now show that affirmative action actually hurts those it purports to help. We suggest that no legislator can, in good conscience, vote for SB185 before examining these studies very carefully. Anything less would be irresponsible. You can not pretend to support the cause of minorities in students' admissions until you have informed yourselves as to what recent investigations show about the real, as opposed to imagined, effects of preferences. Making guesses or relying on assumptions is not good enough. Nor is a conviction that you are on the right side, unless and until you are quite sure what that side really is.
But aside from the destructiveness of what SB185 attempts to do, we still consider this bill among the most deceitful, palpably illegal, and pointless pieces of legislation that we have ever seen. SB185 mentions the 2003 U.S Supreme Court Grutter v.Bollinger decision, suggesting that preferences in college admissions in California are permitted to the extent allowed in Grutter. This is either dishonest or incompetent. Everyone understands that Grutter only allows what is not prohibited by state law. California state law prohibits preferences. Did no one on the committee that drafted this bill know that Proposition 209 trumps Grutter in California? If not, they all deserve to be fired for incompetence. Or did they know and yet still put this hint into the bill? Then they should be fired for dishonesty.
SB185 suggests that race may be considered in college admissions to the extent allowed by state law. This is a hint that state law allows race to influence admissions. Did the drafters of SB185 not know that state law forbids taking race into account in admissions? Or did they instead know, but set out intentionally to mislead? Either way, whoever drafted this bill does not deserve to serve in a legislative office, or in the legislature. What is clear to every competent observer is that if taking race into account results in an admission to UC that would not otherwise have been made, state law has been broken.
What, then, can SB185 possibly achieve? It may persuade people who do not understand the law to make an admission to UC that was influenced by race. That will result in unnecessary and costly lawsuits, the outcome of which is pre-ordained. Will the authors of this mischievous bill be proud of having clogged the courts with pointless law-suits? But is there anything else that SB185 could achieve? Surely the legislature has better things to do with its time than waste it on bills like this one.
John Ellis, President
Charles Geshekter, Chairman
cc Chair Marty Block
Vice-Chair Tim Donnelly
Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian
Assemblymember Julia Brownley
Assemblymember Paul Fong
Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani
Assemblymember Ricardo Lara
Assemblymember Jeff Miller
Assemblymember Anthony J Portantino