By: Staff Writers Anand Balaji and Hairol Ma
Senate Constitutional Amendment Number 5 (SCA5) is a proposed piece of California state legislation that would allow California universities to take race into account during college admissions. Proposition 209 states that, “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” The new amendment would revoke the existing law which eliminates some of the ethnic skews that exist when it comes to admission into the UC system by using affirmative action. According to data analysis done by the UC Berkeley Office of Planning and Analysis, in the 2013 freshman class, Blacks and Latinos make up 14.2% of the population while Asians (Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and South Asian) were 39.6%.
California State Senator Edward Hernandez first proposed SCA5 in December of 2012. The bill was passed in the California State Senate on January 30, 2014 and will be voted on by the California State Assembly. If the amendment is passed, it will go on the ballots during the November 4th elections of this year to be voted on by the California public.
Because our demographic is heavily Asian, SCA5 would deliver a harsh blow to MSJ’s population. MSJ’s concerned student population is already taking a stand against SCA5. “It’s clearly a violation of our constitutional rights. The 14th amendment states that the state shall grant any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws,” says Junior Derek Fan, Vice President of MSJ Social Activism through Nonviolent Efforts (SANE). “For Asian Americans it’s already harder to get into college as they have to score several hundred points higher than White and African American applicants on tests such as the SAT to get the same level of recognition from college admission officers. With the passing of this amendment, it will just make it harder for us to get into college as we can now be rejected simply for our heritage,” he said. SANE held a meeting to raise awareness and to start a petition against SCA5, as well as informing parents via MSJTalk. “Essentially, it’s taking opportunities away from Asian students like me who work hard to earn their place in college. Everyone should have the right to equal opportunities and colleges have no right to limit students based on age, race, and sex,” says Sophomore Sage Merchant, a member of SANE.
However, SCA5 does introduce diversity to a college campus. By admitting students based on race, SCA5 increases minority populations, also offering more academic opportunities to some who can’t afford SAT preparation classes and tutoring. “Although I don’t agree with SCA5, people need to get their facts straight. Everybody thinks SCA5 is a discrimination bill, but in reality, it’s designed to bring affirmative action back. For those of you who don’t know what AF is, it’s using race as a criteria on a college application. Some colleges still use it to make their campuses more diverse. Although I don’t agree with the design of affirmative action, people still need to widen their viewpoint instead of immediately assuming that they won’t be able to get into college,” says Alumnus Steven Chi. “Asians are taking up a large part of the college campus- here at Davis, at least.”
MSJ parents have also been taking a fierce stand against SCA5. Many have signed the online petition on change.org, which reached 109,354 supporters. Under pressure from his constituents, Hernandez agreed to “hold” the bill until he met with the affected communities do discuss the implications of the law. Some MSJ parents, however, believe the bill can have some beneficial results. “I’m not too concerned with SCA 5 as compared to my friends and community members. I think of it from a diversity standpoint. Sure it may limit your chances, but would you really want your kid going to a school full of Asians and not experience anything new?” says MSJ Parent Li Liu.
Ultimately, SCA5 will significantly affect MSJ in terms of college admissions, but it will also offer diversity and more opportunities to minority students. The vote is still pending and if the amendment is approved, California voters can expect to see it on their ballots this November.