Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Brown: Yes to California Dream Act, no to race and gender in college admissions

Photo by sea turtle/Flickr (Creative Commons)

While most of the attention was on the California Dream Act yesterday as today's bill-signing deadline loomed, a lesser-known but equally controversial California bill involving students of color met with a thumbs-down from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, SB 185, would have allowed state universities to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin in undergraduate and graduate admissions, provisions that were seen by some as conflicting with Proposition 209, a 1996 state initiative that prohibited the use of affirmative action in public institutions.

UC Berkeley's Daily Californian quoted from a message sent by Brown to state Senate members yesterday after he vetoed the bill:

"Signing this bill is unlikely to impact how Proposition 209 is ultimately interpreted by the courts; it will just encourage the 209 advocates to file more costly and confusing lawsuits,” he wrote in the message.

Brown wrote that while he supported the idea of SB 185, "the courts - not the Legislature - determine the limits of Proposition 209." He added that a court case is currently pending in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against the state and the University of California system on the same issues addressed in the bill.

SB 185 didn't receive widespread public attention until late last month, when a campus group of Republican students at UC Berkeley held a "diversity bake sale" to protest the bill. The students, who posted different bake sale prices for different ethnic groups - with white men paying the most -  drew national media attention and hundreds of counter-protesters.

Meanwhile, AB 131, the most hotly debated student-related state measure on Brown's desk, was signed into law yesterday. The second of two bills referred to as the California Dream Act, it will allow undocumented college students to apply for publicly-funded state financial aid, the same now available to U.S. citizens and legal residents. A companion bill granting these students access to privately-funded grants and scholarships was signed by Brown in July.