January 31, 2014

California Senate wants voters to give state universities the power to discriminate

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

In a vote that fell along strict party lines, the California Senate Democrat supermajority voted yesterday to put a controversial constitutional amendment on the November ballot. SCA5 would give universities the power to judge students on the basis of race when they are applying for admission to a school in the University of California or California State University systems.

SCA5 would repeal the prohibition on discrimination that California voters wrote into the Constitution when they adopted Proposition 209 in 1996.  After Proposition 209 was adopted, Article I, section 31(a) of the California Constitution read:

“The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

SCA5 will add a new provision, Article I, section 31(b), which will read:

“Notwithstanding subdivision (a), this section does not prevent state institutions of higher education from implementing student recruitment and selection programs that are permissible under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

SCA5 now goes to the assembly, where it is expected to pass.  If it does, California voters will once again have the opportunity to decide whether they want their universities to judge people by the color of their skin or the content of their character.

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