Repealing Prop. 209 Would Harm Asian-American Students

Sather Tower rises above the University of California at Berkeley. (Noah Berger/Reuters)

As noted, in a time of a deadly pandemic, Democrats and mainstream media (but I repeat myself) have been preoccupied with the alleged racist implications of calling COVID-19 Chinese coronavirus — an appellation the Left maintains may stoke xenophobia and animosity toward Asian Americans.

Without any apparent sense of irony, however, the Left is pursuing repeal of Prop. 209, an action that unquestionably would harm thousands of Asian-American students. A bill recently was introduced in the California Assembly to put the repeal on the November ballot.

Passed in 1996, Prop. 209 prohibits, among other things, racial discrimination in college admissions. Make no mistake, even with Prop. 209 as law, California colleges still engage in the type of admissions alchemy on display in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard — the suit brought by Asian-American students alleging Harvard discriminates on the basis of race in its admissions process. Evidence adduced in that case shows that the combined SAT scores of Asian-American students admitted to Harvard between 2010–2015 were 218 points higher than those of black admittees. At other selective schools the admissions preferences awarded black and Hispanic students are the equivalent of adding a full 400 points to such applicants’ SAT scores, and the weight added to their GPAs is just as steep.

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These racial preferences in admissions don’t just harm Asian-American students, they harm the intended beneficiaries of the preferences as well. Obviously, students admitted with an average SAT score of 1100 and a GPA of 3.0 have a hard time competing academically with students who have average SATs of 1500 and GPAs of 3.86. The former cohort are more likely to cluster in the bottom quartile of their respective classes and are far more likely not to graduate.

A referendum in the state of Washington involving a similar initiative was narrowly defeated last November. The California effort will be even tougher to beat. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and other elites likely will devote substantial resources to overturn Prop. 209. Thousands of Asian-American students will be harmed. But virtue signaling will achieve new heights.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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