Wilson, university official battle over affirmative action ban delay Calif. admissions policy is postponed for 1 year

January 25, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- Gov. Pete Wilson and University of California President Richard Atkinson were at a standoff yesterday after a tense, 45-minute meeting over Mr. Atkinson's decision to delay the university's ban on affirmative action in admissions for one year.

An angry governor summoned Mr. Atkinson to the Capitol in Sacramento early yesterday to express his strong opposition to the delay, which postpones the ban on race- and gender-based preferences so that it will first apply to applicants for the fall 1998 term.

Mr. Atkinson emerged "red-faced" from the meeting, a source said, but not before he told Mr. Wilson that he believes the new timetable is necessary to ensure that the ban, approved by the University of California Board of Regents in July, can be implemented effectively.

Some regents were outraged by Mr. Atkinson's decision and accused him of overstepping his authority and subverting the board's policy, which is due to take effect Jan. 1, 1997.

"This is a diametric divergence of what [the policy] is trying to do," said Regent Ward Connerly, who spearheaded the push to remove ethnic preferences from the university system's hiring, contracting and admissions processes.

Particularly galling, other regents said, was the fact that when they voted on the university's affirmative action policies at a meeting last week -- postponing indefinitely consideration of a proposal to rescind the ban -- Mr. Atkinson did not mention his plan for a one-year delay.

That led some to accuse him this week of trying to sneak the plan past the university's governing board.

"That's insubordination," said Regent Glenn Campbell.

Mr. Atkinson, he said, erred by "acting as if the regents are unimportant. He'd better be careful or he may not have a job."

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