With the Nov. 3 election around the corner, the Cal Poly Pomona community is weighing pros and cons of the ballot measure for affirmative action, Proposition 16. Proposition 16, if passed, would allow universities and government offices to consider race, gender or ethnicity in hiring and admissions decisions.
Proposition 16 would also end the 25-year ban on affirmative action in California universities and public institutions. In 1996, California became one of nine states that voted to end affirmative action with Proposition 209.
In a statement released on Oct. 14, the California Faculty Association expressed its support for Proposition 16, citing contempt for any law that does not increase access for people of color.
California Faculty Association Vice President Jonathan Puthoff believes racial equality should be a driving principle in higher education.
“It would potentially modify the criteria by which students are admitted and modify the way that we conduct searches for administrators and faculty,” said Puthoff. “So that if you are a program that is lacking in students or faculty from underrepresented backgrounds and you want to take positive steps to move away from that direction, if this passes you would have the opportunity to do so…. We don’t want to be color blind. We want to be very deliberate and cognizant of the way people’s backgrounds place limitations on their opportunities and push back against that.”
In an October poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 50% of likely voters were opposed to Proposition 16, while 37% supported the proposition; 12% were still undecided. Those in opposition of Proposition 16 believe no person should be given preferential treatment and all people should be treated the same under the law.
“Race-based affirmative action has always been a controversial topic. In present times, it takes courage and conviction for Democrats to speak up publicly against Prop. 16. Those who oppose Prop. 16 desire to help the disadvantaged, but they also think Prop. 16 is not the way to go.” said Californians for Equal Rights in a press release.
Adalilian Franco, a Mexican American, first-generation, fourth-year gender, ethnicity and multicultural studies major voted yes on Proposition 16, but remains uncertain how much race, gender and ethnicity should play a role in the admissions process.
“I do see how it can be good for incoming students, to get more minority students go to college and have that opportunity to not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin,” said Franco. “Yet, I also see how that can still be discriminating because it is basing it off your race, gender and ethnicity, and that is what is deciding if you are going to college or not. It becomes very artificial and not because of the credibility you have made for yourself in the 18 years you have been in school.”
Addressing this concern, Mary Yu Danico, sociology professor and director of Asian American Transnational Research Initiative, held a panel on Oct. 15 on affirmative action.
“What Proposition 16 does is it gives people access because of systematic racism and oppression that has existed in our society,” Danico said. “I think that now people are becoming much more awaken to the understanding that systematic racism is at the root of oppression all throughout every fabric of our land. In terms of occupation and education, affirmative action is one way that we were trying to address, not just for Black lives, but for all underrepresented communities.”
Danico assured that affirmative action is not about satisfying quotas, as the U.S. Supreme Court banned quotas in 1978. Nor, she said, would race be the sole criteria considered in hiring and admission processes. Additionally, she addressed the specific conflict surrounding Proposition 16 within the Asian American community.
“There is a lot of conservative Asian Americans who are against this Prop 16, and I think it’s this fear of we don’t want our children or our community to be disadvantaged. If you are socially economically advantaged, then you don’t have to necessarily worry about access,” she said.
Local organizations and politicians who support Prop 16 include the American Civil Liberties Union, Gov. Gavin Newsom, The Los Angeles Times, co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who passed an executive directive in June to support affirmative action and racial equity in city government.
Opponents of Proposition 16 include Californians for Equal Rights, Students for Fair Admissions, the American Civil Rights Institute and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
ASI Officer of Civic Engagement Nicole Stai, is dedicated to answer any question students have in relation to voting. She emphasized the necessity in providing people of color career opportunities in acknowledging systemic racism.
“I think Proposition 16 really allows California, specifically, to acknowledge this racism that we have always had in America and it allows us to do better moving forward and genuinely give minorities and people of color the same opportunity,” said Stai.
Stai added that while believes Prop 16 is the legislation needed to tackle sociopolitical constraints that hinder marginalized communities in America, she also hopes to see these challenges dissolve with active political engagement.
“We must take foundation steps toward equal opportunity, and affirmative action is just one of those steps. I do believe we can repeal affirmative action when we get to a place in America where there is equal opportunity for people of color, women and minorities and LGBTQIA+ community. It is just at this point, there is not,” she said.
A vote no on Proposition 16 would keep the current ban on affirmative action in place.
A vote yes on Proposition 16 would repeal the ban Proposition 209 placed on affirmative action and directly address the systemic racism and oppression in education and the workplace.
If students want to learn more on Prop 16 visit https://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/16/.
(Feature image courtesy of Clay Banks)
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