Brown Vetoes Race Preference Bill: California Scholars Successfully Defend Prop. 209

  • Press_Release
  • October 12, 2011

PRINCETON, NJ (October 12, 2011)—In a victory for the defense of equal opportunity, California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Senate Bill 185. The bill would have restored racial preferences in college admissions in the state.

The California Association of Scholars (CAS), an affiliate of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), advocated against the passage of the bill that would have undermined Proposition 209, the law passed by voters in 1996 to prohibit California state colleges and universities from using racial, ethnic or sex-based preferences in their admission decisions. The bill, introduced by state senator Ed Hernandez, passed the state Assembly on August 28 in a 49-28 vote and the state Senate on September 1 in a 23-15 vote.

SB 185 included provisions that “The University of California may, and the California State University shall, consider race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, geographic origin, and household income, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, so long as no preference is given.”

In a letter to the California State Senate Education Committee, CAS leaders wrote that the proposed language in SB 185 encouraged “UC and CSU to break the law, by telling them that considering race in admissions is not the same thing as granting a preference. But considering race in admissions is the same thing as granting a preference.”

Governor Brown explained to the California State Senate that while he agreed with the goals of SB 185, he decided to return the bill unsigned because he believed that it violated constitutional law. Citing the separation of powers, Gov. Brown concluded that it was the role of the courts, not of the legislature, to determine the limits of Prop. 209.

The Governor’s reasoning echoes the critique of SB 185 offered by CAS. As they wrote, “This proposed law cannot possibly achieve anything—apart from encouraging individuals who have a poor understanding of the law to break it, thus clogging our courts with completely unnecessary suits to restrain them when they do so.”

"What is clear to every competent oberver," said CAS leaders in a second letter to the California Assembly Committee on Higher Education, "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." 

The National Association of Scholars applauds Gov. Brown’s decision to listen to the advice of CAS to veto SB 185 and uphold the standing precedent of Prop. 209.

NAS also congratulates the members and leadership of the California Association of Scholars for their success in protecting the citizens of California from racial, ethnic and sex-based discrimination.

Peter Wood, president of NAS, said, “The NAS has long been at the forefront of the struggle against racial and ethnic preferences in academic admissions and hiring. We are pleased that Governor Brown has upheld California citizens’ belief in colorblindness as the best way to cultivate respect, justice, and excellence on our nation’s campuses.”

NAS works to improve American higher education by expanding intellectual standards, academic freedom, and institutional transparency in colleges and universities. To learn more about NAS, visit

Peter Wood, President, NAS: 609-683-7878; [email protected]

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