Affirmative action ban delayed in Calif. system University officials say they need time to implement policy

January 24, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SAN FRANCISCO -- In what proponents of affirmative action hailed as a sign that the University of California may reconsider its ban on the use of race and sex to select students, university officials said yesterday that they would delay starting the new policy by one year.

The officials said that the delay did not signal a retreat from the decision in July to abandon affirmative action. They said there was not enough time to implement new admission guidelines by next year. The postponement means the new policy will apply to freshmen entering in 1998, rather than those entering in 1997.

"This is a big change," said Dennis Galligani, assistant vice president of the university, "and this gives us more time to work with the campuses and explain it to people. But nothing has changed. Materials developed after Jan. 1, 1997, will have no reference to race and gender."

A letter from university President Richard C. Atkinson announcing the delay was sent to the chancellors of the system's nine campuses Friday, the day after a raucous meeting in which the regents reaffirmed their decision to abandon race- and gender-based hiring and admissions. The new standards for hiring took effect in January.

In July, the regents banned the use of race, religion, ethnicity, sex and national origin as criteria in hiring faculty, awarding contracts and selecting students.

Gov. Pete Wilson, who was behind the drive to abolish affirmative action, made a rare appearance at the meeting and urged the regents not to back down.

Opponents of the new policy said they believed the administration had been persuaded to slow down by the widely organized faculty opposition and several critical newspaper editorials published this week.

Roy T. Brophy, a regent from the Sacramento area who voted against the ban, said he would ask the board in the next few months to modify the policy approved in July. "It gives us a window of opportunity to study and restudy what is fair," he said.

One faculty member said yesterday that he viewed the delay as a concession that the new policies had been hastily adopted.

"The old policy was dumped without any concept of what it would take to generate a new policy that would assure diversity," said Lawrence Wallack, a professor of public health at the University of California, Berkeley. "It may be that when enough research is done, they find there is an internal contradiction in the new policy: maintaining diversity is not possible without some consideration of race."

The proposed new admission guidelines, which say that diversity should be pursued by using "social and economic disadvantage" instead of race and sex, must still be approved by the regents and by each of the system's nine campuses before new applications can be printed.

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