Dead on arrival
Assembly declines to act on constitutional amendment that would have allowed colleges to admit students based on race
By André Coleman 03/20/2014
A controversial state constitutional amendment that would have overturned California’s ban on racial preferences in college admissions will not go to voters this year.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker John Perez announced that he was sending State Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA 5) back to the Senate without taking any action.
Perez acknowledged that the bill did not have the votes to pass and said a task force to determine whether California should change the way it admits students to public universities.
The group will include representatives from the University of California, California State University and community colleges, Perez said during a press conference.
SCA 5 would have reversed provisions in the state constitution established after voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. Those provisions prohibited racial and gender preferences in state employment, contracting and education.
Since 1996, college enrollment numbers for African-American students have plummeted while Latino enrollment rates have remained steady. Enrollment among Asian-American students increased during that period. The proposed amendment angered Asian-Americans. If passed by voters, many people believed that their children would be denied entrance to college in favor of struggling minorities who had lower grades.
“I hope that they are going to truly let it end,” said Joint Chinese University Alumni Association of Southern California President Olivia Liao, a leading figure against SCA 5. “I have heard that they wanted to delay it so they can put it to a vote during the presidential election to get more people to come out to vote. I hope this is not just a tactic they are using.”
Liao was among 50 people who attended a rally at the Hilton Hotel in San Gabriel on March 7 to speak out against the bill. The rally came a day after Sen. Carol Liu, (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Sens. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) publicly called on the author of the amendment, Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), to hold it until they could meet with members of impacted communities.
Liu, Lieu and Yee said they did not know about the opposition when they voted for the measure.
The three senators voted for the bill in the Senate despite an online petition signed by 80,000 people.
After the vote in the Senate, more than 500 Chinese Americans gathered in front of Democratic Assemblyman Ed Chau’s office in Monterey Park to protest SCA 5, according to the Global Times.
“I want to make sure it is truly going away,” Liao said. “Nevertheless, I am happy. We will continue to monitor it to make sure it does not come back again.”