October 23, 2020

On Election Day, Californians will have a chance to repeal the ban on affirmative action voters approved in 1996. Proposition 16, which is struggling in the polls, would permit applying diversity as a factor in public employment, contracting and education, including in hiring and, to an extent, college admissions decisions. 

For the last quarter century, most of the spotlight has been on how affirmative action has affected enrollments at the University of California’s flagship campuses. This week, we speak with Prop. 16 advocate Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of the nonprofit Education Trust-West, about how passage might enable the state to target K-12 funding for underserved minorities and recruit more Black and Latino teachers. Luoluo Hong, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management for the CSU, discusses how race and gender considerations might help with scholarship programs for Black and Latino students, faculty retention programs and recruitment of women students to STEM programs.

But even if Prop. 16 were approved, in a series of landmark cases the U.S. Supreme Court has placed substantial restrictions on how affirmative action can be used. Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks argues that affirmative action is still a useful tool — but it has to be applied carefully to pass constitutional muster.  

Finally, the father of Prop. 209, Ward Connerly, a UC regent at time, makes a pitch for keeping what he, more than anyone else, wrote and helped pass.

For background on this issue, check out the following: