California Prop. 16 addresses racial injustice in education

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The Catalyst / Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Californians will vote on Proposition 16 this November.

This November, California citizens will vote on 12 propositions. Following the nation-wide protests that have been going on since May in response to police brutality and racial injustice, one of those propositions aims to reform public education in order to allow for increased diversity in schools.

Proposition 16, if voted through, would repeal Proposition 209, an initiative passed in 1996 that banned Affirmative Action in public employment, public contracting, and public education. Affirmative Action in regards to education is when admissions officers take into account race, sex, ethnicity, or nationality when evaluating applicants in order to promote the admittance of minority groups.

Allowing public institutions to consider people’s differences in employment and education, acknowledges and helps break down the structural racism that still pervades our society. The merit-based system we have is good only so far as everyone has the same access to what is needed to thrive as a young person, and that is far from true.”

— John Ahlbach

Since Proposition 209 was passed, enrollment for underrepresented groups in the University of California school system has declined by 12 percent (University of California). For this reason, the University of California Board of Regents has publicly supported Proposition 16, along with California Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris and California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Supporters hope that reinstating Affirmative Action in the college admissions process in particular will create more ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse campuses as well as lead to increased opportunities for minority students to enter into high paying jobs.

Opposers to Proposition 16, including a number of Republicans in the California State Assembly, argue that taking race into account in college admissions is a form of racial discrimination, and that admitting students based on their race rather than merit will lead to them struggling to keep up in their college classes.

Proposition 16, if passed, could have a large effect on all students attending public state universities, not just those belonging to minority groups.

“[The benefit of going to a diverse school] is that you’re just more exposed to different perspectives,” said Karla Aguilar, junior and member of the I am Diverse club at NDB. “That’s one of the things about Affirmative Action that everyone benefits from.”

For high school students looking to apply to a public university within the state of California, Proposition 16 being approved could significantly impact their college admissions process. A school’s diversity is a big factor for some high school students in choosing where to apply.

“I feel like a lot of students of color face this feeling that a college doesn’t want them because they’re not that typical student at their school, if the majority of the student body population is white, and so you already feel unwelcome. Knowing that the school is prioritizing you and wants you on campus because of what you can offer just makes students want to apply and be part of that school,” said Aguilar.

As a private institution, NDB’s admissions process would not be affected by Proposition 16. However, as NDB students look to apply to California’s public universities, Proposition 16 calls into question the most effective way to promote diversity and inclusion on all campuses.

“Allowing public institutions to consider people’s differences in employment and education, acknowledges and helps break down the structural racism that still pervades our society. The merit-based system we have is good only so far as everyone has the same access to what is needed to thrive as a young person, and that is far from true,” said Social Justice teacher John Ahlbach. “Including more people of color and from other diverse backgrounds in our public power structures also increases the chances that children will have more models they can look up to and emulate.”

Students hoping to get involved in the democratic process still have a few days left to participate in the Tigers Vote Project, where they can help legal voters prepare to cast their ballots by November 3 and educate others on Proposition 16.

Should public institutions reinstate Affirmative Action?

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