An Understanding of Percentage Plans in Higher Education:
Are They Effective Substitutes for Affirmative Action?
Statement of Commissioner Carl A. Anderson and
Commissioner Russell G. Redenbaugh
We strongly object to this statement and to the way it has been pushed through, on a “poll vote,” out of the public’s eye, and without providing the opportunity for open discussion and full deliberation by the Commission.
The poll vote is an extraordinary procedure that should be used only on urgent matters that the Commission has already reviewed and discussed openly, as in the case of the South Dakota report last month, or where there is unanimous consent to proceed in such a manner. In the case of the present statement on “percentage plans,” however, the poll vote clearly is being used to keep any discussion or dissent off the public record. The issues raised in the statement are certainly too important and complex to be rushed through in this way, without full and careful consideration by this body.
Although we were denied the opportunity for discussion, here are just a few of the questions we would have liked to pose, in an open session:
is the reason for politicizing the discussion on percentage plans?
Specifically, considering that the statement critiques the plans in three
states (Florida, Texas and California), what is the reason for beginning the
paper with a personalized attack on the Governor of Florida? Why is the
Governor’s plan characterized as a “stealth acknowledgment—and
acceptance” that “existing segregation will never change and that
longstanding efforts to remedy the race discrimination that was legal in
Florida have been abandoned”?
conducting their research, was Commission staff ever in contact with the
office of the Florida Governor, the Florida Board of Regents, or the Florida
Department of Education to seek information about the One Florida
Initiative? Aside from the information obtained from the Internet, was any
other research conducted through direct contact with the other two States
(California and Texas)?
regard to the charges about the Florida Governor’s “ending”
affirmative action, shouldn’t it be clarified that the Governor’s
executive order did not repeal a single affirmative action law on the books
in Florida? Similarly, in regard to the claim that One Florida “bans”
consideration of race and gender in contracting, wouldn’t it have been
fair to present the Governor’s public response (“Race consciousness is
appropriate, as long as the State does not benefit one racial or ethnic
group to the detriment of another.”)? Why does the statement make
reference to only one element of the contracting plan when it contains at
least six key elements to root out discrimination and enhance minority
respect to the statistics showing increased diversity at the University of
Texas at Austin, what is the point of the claim that “[t]his return to
pre-Hopwood diversity figures is relative in that it disregards the fact
that in 1999 the total applicant pool for blacks and Hispanics increased
while the yield decreased in comparison to 1996 figures”? Considering that
the decrease in the “yield” is a result of the increase in the number of
applicants, doesn’t this enhance rather than detract from the post-Hopwood
effects, particularly in terms of minority recruitment?
there a way to explain more clearly the following assertions in the
discussion on the Texas Plan?: (1) “. . . it is clear that the absence of
an affirmative action program at UT-Austin has detrimentally affected the
admission of black and Hispanic students not in the top ten percent of their
high school class who pre-Hopwood might have been admitted.” (2) “. . .
at least, the Ten Percent Plan makes it possible for some students to attend
UT-Austin who after Hopwood might have been excluded.
that minority admissions to UT-Austin and Florida State today are at or
above the level they were when racial preference policies were in effect,
why does the statement conclude that “the percentage plans will do no
better and probably worse” than traditional race-conscious programs?
does the statement claim that “rather than focusing primarily on improving
Florida’s failing public schools” the Florida Governor has given
priority attention to implementing his voucher program, the Opportunity
Scholarship Program? In other words, why is the Governor’s education plan
characterized as antithetical to the goal of improving schools when the
whole focus of the plan is on improving low-performing schools serving
primarily low-income and minority students?
does the statement fail to incorporate the views of voucher proponents in
regard to the claims that minority enrollment in the University of
California system has “decreased every year” since Proposition 209 and
the Board of Regents’ policy that excluded affirmative action, why are no
charts or statistics given similar to the ones provided for Texas? Why does
the statement exclude data showing that in the UC system, minority
enrollment for this year’s freshman class is slightly below
pre-Proposition 209 numbers and has increased over last year?
As these questions reveal, the proposed statement is littered with inaccuracies and half-truths. The major fact the statement ignores is this: Courts across the nation are striking down racial preferences and set-asides. The majority of Americans do not support race-based preferences. This does not mean we should do away with outreach, recruitment and other efforts to increase diversity and expand opportunities for minorities; but we can do that without discriminating. That is the whole point behind the reforms in Florida, Texas, and California: to increase the pool of eligible applicants; to reach out to students that traditionally have not been recruited, particularly those from the inner city; to focus on need-based financial aid; and to expand opportunity for students in low-performing schools.
The proposed statement reflects neither the scholarship nor deliberation to which the American taxpayers are entitled. We dissent from this premature rush to judgment in a matter of such public importance.