California Colleges Mull Return of Affirmative Action

California universities are considering whether to bring back affirmative action policies in effort to more evenly diversify schools that have historically underrepresented certain groups.

But not everyone is in support of the potential policy return, claiming the move will force discrimination in college admissions, especially at University of California campuses.

"You're telling all the students who work hard all their life to say, 'You are not getting in because of your color,'" parent Vivian Chan said of her Asian daughter, a student whom she fears will be penalized.

Race is at the heart of the Senate Constitutional Amendment (SCA) 5, a proposal to overturn Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race, sex or ethnicity in state university admissions.

A coalition of Asian American groups believe SCA 5 is discrimination.

"I'm afraid a lot of Asian students will be hurt by this so-called SCA 5," high school guidance counselor Claire Wu told NBC4.

One reason the Asian community is on such high alert over the proposed change may be the fact that UC schools over-represented that population with 43 percent of admissions in 2013.

Caucasian applicants made up 26 percent, Latinos at 21 percent, and African Americans at 4 percent, according to UC admission records.

SCA 5's author, State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, aims to change those drastic differences in percentages.

"The private universities, for example the Stanfords of the world, Yale, Harvard, they actively can use this in recruiting," Hernandez said. "The only place we cannot do this is in our university system."

Supporters of affirmative action believe underrepresented students aren't getting the chance to compete at UC's elite colleges, and that includes Southeast Asian students who believe groups within the Asian community are subject to underrepresentation.

"East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, like all of these groups, but some of them are actually underrepresented," UC Los Angeles student Olivia Tran said.

But opponents maintain that factoring in race can hurt a student's ability to succeed in college if their academic skills are behind.

UCLA Professor Patricia Gandara, an SCA 5 supporter, said one group doesn't necessarily have to benefit at the expense of another.

"We must recognize the needs of this state and expand the opportunity so that more underrepresented students can participate and we don't lose the Asian students," she said.

The California Senate has already passed SCA 5, and if it passes the Assembly, it would go before voters in November of this year or in 2016.

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