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 this background report by Spencer Michels, Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion.
SPENCER MICHELS: Nine hundred fifty law students began arriving for classes in orientation this morning at Bolt Hall, the prestigious law school at the University of California at Berkeley. Since the 1970's, this school had been among the most aggressive in attracting minorities. In recent years about 20 blacks in each class is the norm, but this year of the two seventy-one students in the first-year class, only one is African-American, a deferred admission from last year.
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
August 18, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion on the low minority 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.
ERIC BROOKS, Law Student: When choosing a law school, I placed a high value on the diversity of the student body, and contemplating going to school elsewhere after hearing the news. However, I quickly reminded myself that Berkeley's reputation and ranking, specialized programs, legal aid clinics and affordability, and a local community, still best met my needs.
SPENCER MICHELS: Of 792 students offered a place at Bolt, only 14 were blacks. And none of them chose to attend.
DANIELLA RAZ, Law Student: I think the law school is going to be a really different place. Discussions will be totally dead and different, and it's very sad.
KATHERINE BAILEY, Law Student: I might be in the minority on this one, but I'm kind of pleased, actually, that there is no affirmative action in the admissions process. But I'm looking forward to still have a diverse class but not having it because of an explicit policy. So I'm pleased.
SPENCER MICHELS: Of course, it isn't a diverse class. There's only one black in it.
KATHERINE BAILEY: Well, that's if you believe that skin color is all that defines diversity, which I don't.
NOAH LEVY, Second Year Law Student: Almost all of us who came here were attracted to the diversity of Berkeley and the liveliness, the richness that that seems to create all around. I mean, in classroom discussions, in the student groups, in protests and things take place on campus, and we will suffer--we will all suffer a lesser and less rich education as a result of this.
SPENCER MICHELS: The new enrollment statistics follow a 1995 decision by the university's governing body, the Board of Regents, to ban consideration of race, ethnicity, and gender in admissions. The push for the ban was led by Gov. Pete Wilson and his appointee, regent Ward Connerly.
WARD CONNERLY, University of California Regent: When we find discrimination, deal with it. But we should not assume that all members of a certain group, however define that group, are going to be victims of discrimination, and, therefore, confer public benefits on them to prevent discrimination that really has haven't even occurred yet.
SPENCER MICHELS: The dean of Berkeley's law school, Herma Hill Kay, says without affirmative action, attracting and admitting minority students at a public university has proven difficult.
SPENCER MICHELS: Why did the 14 black students you did offer admission to, why did they decide not to come here?
HERMA HILL KAY, Dean, UC-Berkeley Law School: We're not clear about the reasons for all of them. We do know where they went, but most of them went to prestigious private schools--four at Harvard, two at Yale, two at Stanford, and others elsewhere. We do know that those schools have greater financial aid resources than we have, and we think that there may have been a sense that California may not be very hospitable to African-Americans.
SPENCER MICHELS: Alumni and students organized this vigil to protest the low minority enrollment and the end of affirmative action here and elsewhere in the university system. Two University of California medical schools will have no black students entering this year. At UCLA Law School black admissions dropped in one year from 104 to 21. However, at some other California campuses, including the Davis Medical School, increases in minority admissions have been reported.
HERMA HILL KAY: Well, we're going to have to try and find ways to increase our acceptance yield next year. I am working with groups of lawyers, alums, to try and get scholarship funding that would be available to us through non-state sources.
SPENCER MICHELS: The ban on affirmative action applies only to professional and graduate schools this year. Next year, undergraduate admissions face the same restrictions.