Diversity Rankings Hold Deep Meaning for the University of California, the State, and the Nation

Even after the Supreme Court’s 1978 Bakke ruling, the University of California persisted in admitting students on the basis of race and ethnicity, not merit and test scores. Californians put a stop to such discrimination in 1996 by passing the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, which bans racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. Opponents argued that the measure would end minority representation, but that turned out to be wrong. 

As Fox Business reports, “The number one most diverse public university in the country is UC Davis, where 30,066 undergraduates are enrolled at a diversity index rate of 77.64.” The diversity index is a continuum that ranges from 0 to 100 to calculate whether a population is more evenly divided across race and ethnic groups. By this standard, UCLA comes second, UC Santa Barbara fourth, UC San Diego sixth, UC Berkeley ninth, and UC Irvine tenth. So diversity endures, but only in race and ethnicity.

A student can pass through the UC system without learning much about Nobel Prize-winning economists such as F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. UC literature departments are not strong on writes such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel. UC bosses such as the outgoing president Janet Napolitano are not strong on the First and Second Amendments. 

Still, as Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, after Proposition 209 was enacted there was an increase in the number of black and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system, including an increase of 55 percent in the number graduating in four years. There was also an increase of 63 percent in the number graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. And after voters banned racial preferences, Sowell shows, the number of black and Hispanic students graduating with degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering rose by 51 percent. Also after 209, the number of doctorates earned by black and Hispanic students in the UC system rose by 25 percent. 

The lessons should be clear. Proposition 209 promoted merit and achievement while allowing ethnic diversity to thrive. If other states pass similar measures, California might become a leader again. 


K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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