|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Chronicle of Higher Education 12-8-04
Ward Connerly, Lightning Rod in Affirmative-Action Debate, Won't Seek
New Term as California Regent
Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who led successful efforts in California and Washington State to outlaw affirmative action in college admissions, will not seek another 12-year term on the Board of Regents, where he has often clashed with other members over racial issues.
Mr. Connerly's term on the 26-member board expires on March 1, 2005. The regents are scheduled to meet only once more before then, in January.
"Twelve years is long enough," Mr. Connerly said in an interview on Tuesday. "I have done the best that I could. It's time to move on."
Mr. Connerly, who was appointed in 1993 by California's governor at the time, Pete Wilson, a Republican, said he had not been approached by the current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, also a Republican, about remaining on the board. "I wouldn't accept if offered," he said.
One reason, he said, is that the board's composition has changed during his tenure, from one made up of alumni and policy experts to one of corporate executives. "There is a lot of political correctness on that board," he said. "I don't think I'd have a lot of fun."
For the past year, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, known as BAMN, has waged a campaign to remove Mr. Connerly as a regent. The group, which has played a prominent role in opposing the ban on affirmative action in California, has organized protests and spoken out during the public-comment period at board meetings.
Yvette Felarca, the coalition's Northern California coordinator, said on Tuesday that her group would not let up until Mr. Connerly's replacement was named. "He has done too much damage on that board," Ms. Felarca said. "He has exploited that board not only to promote his agenda of resegregation in the UC system and the state, but also as a pulpit for the rest of the nation."
Mr. Connerly, who is black, denied that the coalition's campaign had influenced his decision. He said that he had decided "a long time ago" that he did not want another term on the board and that the whole question of whether he would seek one "was totally manufactured" by the coalition.
Since Mr. Connerly was appointed to the Board of Regents, he has been a lightning rod for controversy. In 1995 he persuaded the board to adopt a policy barring the use of affirmative action in university admissions -- a ban that was later overturned.
A little more than a year later, he led an effort to get California voters to approve Proposition 209, which prohibited state and local agencies, including public colleges, from using preferences based on race or gender. In 1998 he pushed a similar measure to passage in Washington State, and he has since campaigned to put one on the ballot in Michigan.
Through it all, Mr. Connerly's name has been inescapably linked to the University of California. That has led some of his fellow regents to complain over the years that he has used his position on the board to advance his personal causes (The Chronicle, November 23, 2001).
But Mr. Connerly said on Tuesday that he would have been just as visible on affirmative-action issues even if he were not on the board. "In recent months I have been referred to in some places as an ex-regent, so some people already think I'm gone," he said.
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