AUGUST 18, 1997
U.C. Berkeley opens its doors to 270 new law school students this year. Only one of them is African American. Is this proof that California's ban on affirmative action hurts diversity? After a background report by Spencer Michels, Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For more, we turn to Meredith Khachigian, a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, and a supporter of the affirmative action ban, and to Henry Ramsey, a former California superior court judge and from 1990 to 1996 dean of Howard University's Law School. Thank you both for being with us. Ms. Khachigian, people around the country for and against affirmative action are watching the University of California as a kind of test case for what happens when affirmative action ends. What do you say to those people watching about the University of California Bolt Law School figures?
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
August 18, 1997:
A backgrounder on the drop in minority student enrollment at Berkeley.
December 13, 1996:
Jeffrey Kaye reports on California's Proposition 209, the constitutional amendment that ends the state's affirmative action programs.
May 20, 1997:
Betty Ann Bowser reports on the end of affirmative action at the Texas universities.
January 10, 1997:
Deval Patrick, former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights discusses affirmative action.
Browse the NewsHour's Race Relations index.
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN, University of California Regent: (San Diego) Well, I think that it's interesting the way that you titled your program "Beyond Affirmative Action," because this is where I think California is happening, is that we are looking beyond affirmative action and to the new reality that is part of the regents' vote two years ago, but also with the will of the people as they demonstrated in Proposition 209. We are dealing with all kinds of different ways of attracting minority students to the university, and that we are looking into ways in addition to LSAT scores and to GPA's to tell the people and to remind them that we support a diverse student body. We want a diverse student body. They are more--they are very, very welcome at our campuses.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me for interrupting, but how do you explain what happened at the University--at Bolt Hall?
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN: Well, first of all, I think we have to recognize that 14 students were accepted. And we encouraged them greatly. We did everything we could to keep them there. They--it was their choice. It was a free choice that they had to go to another campus. And these are very prestigious campuses. In the past, we have always lost many students to these campuses because of the strong recruitment from the East Coast schools that have what I would call stolen some of our best students away from us.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But the number is way down from the admitted students last year. How do you explain that? Do you think this is just what the University of California is going to have to put up with now?
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN: To some extent there will be a short time that we have to put up with--but I think more than that is that the students were accepted in larger numbers before because the admissions offices were able to use race as a criteria, and so they could admit larger numbers, bigger numbers of students to the entering classes at Bolt Hall.
One law school: an example for the nation?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Judge Ramsey, how do you look at what's happened? What do you think its broader meaning for the country is, looking still at the law school example?
HENRY RAMSEY, Former Dean, Howard University Law School: The situation at Berkeley, if replicated in public universities throughout the country, will have a very disastrous effect, I think, for higher education. It is clearly the case that universities have said over the years that diversity--and it was recognized in Justice Powell's opinion in Baake--that diversity is an important element of the educational process, of the form of education that people want to offer.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Baake being...
HENRY RAMSEY: An opinion on diversities.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Baake being an important case.
HENRY RAMSEY: An important affirmative action case--Baake Vs. the Regents of the University of California, involving the Davis Medical School. So what, in effect, has been said is that politicians--and that's really in one sense what regents are--appointed by the governor--carry out the governor's will in some measure are taking over the educational standards of our universities, rather than leaving it to faculty and administrators within those universities who have said that affirmative action is an effective tool for them to bring about a diverse student body and are more enriched academic environment.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why do you think that there were fewer students--African-American students admitted this year--and then so nobody came, only the one student who had been admitted last year came.
An unfriendly climate for minorities.
HENRY RAMSEY: Because of the climate that is projected, I think, both in Texas as a result of the Hopwood decision at the University of Texas, and in Berkeley at Bolt Hall. I suppose people just felt that they weren't going to be welcome and they weren't going to be comfortable when people say that to have a racially diverse university is unimportant and it doesn't matter, and they put out this really shameful hoax on the American people that somehow eliminating race from consideration and admissions; they are somehow pandering to merit. And they noted that's not the case; that merit isn't just in the numbers, and that race was never the sole factor by which anyone would be admitted. People were admitted on the basis of their capacity to do the work and the university's desire to have a diverse student body that's more reflective of the issues and the people and the concerns that we find throughout the country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Khachigian, what about that, that if you look mostly at the--as the law school has done--at LSATS, the law school test, and grade point averages, it's not really fair; that's not the only measure of merit that there is?
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN: No, I agree it isn't, but I think that law schools across the country have had to deal with LSATS and GPA's as the normal criteria for admission to the law schools nationwide. One thing that came out as a result of the Regents' vote two years ago was that we urged the campuses, both in undergraduate and graduate, to look at other supplemental criteria. This has to do with life experiences of students, and this applies at Bolt Hall as well, and I think that in the future years this will be looked at more readily perhaps than it was this year, the essays that people write for entrance exams and for the recommendations they receive--I know in talking with Dean Kay she has talked about using these more extensively in future years--and I would certainly support that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think it's important that at the premier law school in California there be African-Americans and Hispanics in larger numbers?
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN: Oh, definitely. I think that we always want to have a very diverse student body, but I don't think that's true that you could go on any of our campuses or look in any of our professional schools and say that they aren't diverse. We have a very diverse state, and this is reflected in the student body on our campuses.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Judge Ramsey.
HENRY RAMSEY: They are diverse, because they are diverse as the result of affirmative action. I went to Berkeley in 1960. I entered as a student when we had no affirmative action, and I was the only person admitted--and there were only four of us throughout the entire student body. But I want to make two points: one, that with regard to these alternative factors that will be taken into account, such as geography--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Economic background.
HENRY RAMSEY: Economic circumstances. We have two instances that that creates a real problem for us--one, UCLA this year attempted to do that, and they got no better results at Berkeley which went on the numbers--and there's a study by Dr. Linda Whiteman, at the University of North Carolina, that was published recently in a New York University Law Review in which she did models that show that you can't use these other factors to achieve diversity; that if you look at the numbers and you use the numbers system, even if you take these other factors into account, it simply won't work.
Affirmative action: wrecking self-esteem?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you one minute. How do you answer Regent Ward Connerly's argument that if there is affirmative action, it wrecks the self-esteem of the African-Americans in the law school because everybody believes they're only there because of affirmative action? How do you answer that?
HENRY RAMSEY: It isn't a matter of how you got there. It's what you do once you get there. And people's esteem, I assure you, when the grades come out, when the Law Review positions come out, when the jobs are hired, and when people go on into the profession and make enormous contribution, that's where your esteem comes in. Esteem is put down when you're told that if you just look at numbers, that someone that has a 3.8 grade point average from Podunk University is more qualified to attend the school because you've got a 3.0 from Cal-Tech or because someone got 158 on the LSAT score, and you got 154, and they say, well that person is more qualified to go than you--they're not.
And no one's admitting minority students under affirmative action programs that are not qualified to go, and these tests are not being used to determine merit; they're just being used to determine who gets these few seats where today we have so few seats for the number of people who want to go. And let me make one final point: We have people today who are making these decisions that when an open admissions enrollment--they used to take people in when we had plenty of seats and they let the first year determine whether you stayed or not. Well, today, we don't have that many seats, and we've got more people, so we use these tests to weed people out, not to determine who's qualified to attend.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Khachigian, what about that argument? And I know that the groups that brought--that have asked the Department of Education to look into the diminishing or the end of affirmative action at the University of California as a violation of civil rights, their argument was, whatever the inequalities in affirmative action, it was less unequal than what has followed. What about that argument?
MEREDITH KHACHIGIAN: I feel that not enough attention has been given to the University of California in its outreach program; that as a result of the vote that was taken two years ago, we have put in a minimum of $60 million that we are going to raise and to direct towards increasing the pool.
The problem is, is that the pool was too small. We have to increase the pool of eligible-- academically eligible minority students, and then we will be able to have more of them at our prestigious law schools and medical schools. This is the direction where we're going, and this is--you're taking away from preferences based on race, which is wrong and unfair.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you both very much for being with us.
HENRY RAMSEY: Thank you.