A public vote to reinstate affirmative action in admissions at public universities in California failed in this week’s elections.
Supporters of Proposition 16 hoped the state would return to allowing race and gender to be a factor in admissions at public universities, but the measure was defeated 56% to 44%.
Ten U.S. states have banned such a policy – known as affirmative action: California, Texas, Washington, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Idaho.
With nine universities and 285,000 students, the University of California system is the largest in the United States. In 1996, it was among the first university systems to ban affirmative action.
University of California students had lobbied to reinstate the policy. The proposition was supported in the state’s urban San Francisco and Los Angeles regions, but not in the rest of the state.
“Having a diverse student body is an integral part of a holistic, world-class education,” Chaka Tellem, a student at the University of California-Berkeley and a senator in the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), told the Berkeley News.
“For Berkeley to be such a prestigious university and have such a prominent and innovative status in the world, it’s important that we make sure that the campus community reflects not only the diversity of California, but the world,” Tellem said.
Voters approved the affirmative action ban in California 24 years ago along with a ban on using race and gender in hiring decisions in state government and contracting.
In addition to being the largest public university system in the U.S., the University of California system hosts more international students than any other state.
Of the more than 1 million international students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education in the 2018-2019 academic school year, 161,693 attended college or university in California, the No. 1 state destination for foreign students.
Among those international students, 42% come from China and 12.6% from India.