|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Contra Costa Times 3-17-04
'Multi-racial' push seen as a ploy
Applicants to the University of California can check "black," "Chicano," "Filipino," "white" and numerous other racial or ethnic categories to identify themselves. UC Regent Ward Connerly wants to add a couple more: "multi-racial" and "multi-ethnic."
Many people in this country consider themselves made up of multiple races, he says, and the university should acknowledge that and so should the federal government, which collects that data from the university and sets the guidelines for reporting it.
He has asked his fellow regents to take up the matter at their two-day meeting in San Francisco, which begins today. The regents also will discuss budget cuts and likely fee increases.
While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a 10 percent undergraduate fee hike, the regents will consider raising fees by 15 percent.
Critics argue Connerly's proposed changes would obfuscate racial data collection because someone who checked "multi-racial" could have ancestors from any combination of races and it wouldn't be clear which ones.
"The idea that there are pure races -- we called that the 'one-drop rule' back in the days of segregation and Jim Crow," Connerly said, referring to the notion that if someone had one drop of black blood, that person was considered black. "Our family is a multi-racial family, and if you ask my kids, 'What are you?' they'll say 'I'm part this and part that.'"
Connerly championed Proposition 209, which abolished race-based affirmative action in university admissions, state hiring and public contracting in California in 1996. He also led the fight last year for the failed Proposition 54, which would have banned most forms of racial data collection. At present, he is traveling back and forth to Michigan, where he started a campaign to place a proposition similar to 209 on that state's November ballot.
Connerly's latest proposal to change the way the university's applicant data is reported doesn't sit well with Maya Harris, director of the Racial Justice Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in San Francisco.
"It's curious that Mr. Connerly just finished running a campaign in which he argued that we should abolish all racial classification and now he wants to create a brand new racial classification that doesn't tell us anything," she said. "This proposal seems like a backdoor or gradual way of beginning ... to eradicate the collection of racial and ethnic data."
At this point, all that Connerly can do is request that the university ask the federal government to change its requirements for data collection to include a "multi-racial" box. But that's not likely.
University officials oppose Connerly's idea because they don't believe it would provide accurate information, said spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. They do, however, agree with him that other parts of the process for reporting applicants' racial information are flawed and need to be fixed.
Currently, the university allows applicants to check more than one of 13 racial and ethnic categories to describe themselves. But the federal Office of Management and Budget doesn't give specific guidelines for how universities should report that multi-racial information.
So the university picks just one of the racial categories if a student identifies several based on an algorithm developed more than a decade ago that has some races and ethnicities trumping others. For example, if a student checks off "black" and "Filipino," the university reports the student as black to the state and federal governments. If the student checks off "Chicano" and "white," the university would pick "Chicano."
That needs to change, Lunardini said. The university is awaiting guidance from the federal government for how to report multiple races. At the very least, it can change how it reports that information at the state level.
"Given the shifting demographics in California, we should develop a mechanism for better reporting," Lunardini said. "(UC's Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs) Judd King has recommended that we come up with a methodology for reporting the number of people who check multiple boxes."
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