SB 185: What is it?

by denise wong

What is SB 185?

Authored by California Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), “this bill would authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, to the maximum extent permitted by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 31 of Article I of the California Constitution, and relevant case law.”

The bill did NOT authorize quotas or preferences (which were outlawed under 1996’s Proposition 209), nor did it require campuses to adopt these considerations into their admissions policies.

Affirmative action itself refers to a set of policies that take “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin” into account, typically to benefit underrepresented and/or historically disadvantaged groups. Racial consideration, preferences, and quotas all fall under this working definition. However, different legal and informational sources have used various definitions of affirmative action, making the real definition nebulous (and highly politically charged).

The CONSIDERATION of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. involves being more sensitive to the fact that race, gender, etc. may affect the opportunities available to an individual. PREFERENCES and QUOTAS refer to formal methods of granting preferential treatment to certain groups.

The bill passed both the California Assembly and Senate. On Oct. 8th, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who stated that, while he agreed with the spirit of the bill, he would rather allow courts to determine the limits of Proposition 209 than pass more confusing legislation.

** The author would like to acknowledge ASUC Senator Sydney Fang and the Asian Pacific American Coalition for their assistance in compiling information for this piece.