A Brief History of Affirmative Action

This section is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of affirmative action law, cases, or policies. It is, however, a brief review of some of the laws and regulations that have impacted UCI policy, practice, and discussion on affirmative action in recent years.
Executive Order 10925

On March 6, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which included a provision that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." The intent of this executive order was to affirm the government's commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all. This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246 in 1965.

Executive Order 11246

On September 24, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by those organizations receiving federal contracts and subcontracts. In 1967, President Johnson amended the order to include sex on the list of attributes. Executive Order 11246 also requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to promote the full realization of equal opportunity for women and minorities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under the Department of Labor, monitors this requirement for all federal contractors, including all UC campuses, and has developed regulations to which these contractors must adhere. For federal contractors employing more than 50 people and having federal contracts totaling more than $50,000, compliance with these regulations includes disseminating and enforcing a nondiscrimination policy, establishing a written affirmative action plan and placement goals for women and minorities, and implementing action-oriented programs for accomplishing these goals. In addition, an official of the organization must be assigned responsibility for implementation of equal employment opportunity and the affirmative action program.

An excerpt from the executive order follows (Part II, Subpart B, Sec. 202(1)):

The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion, or transfer; recruitment or recruitment advertising; layoff or termination; rates of pay or other forms of compensation; and selection for training, including apprenticeship.

SP-1 and SP-2

On July 20, 1995 the Board of Regents of the University of California adopted Regents Resolutions SP-1 and SP-2. In effect, SP-1 required that race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin not be considered in the admissions decision process. SP-2 focused on University employment and contracts, eliminating consideration of the same attributes in hiring and contracting decisions. Both resolutions stipulated that nothing contained within these sections should be interpreted to prohibit any action strictly necessary to maintain or establish eligibility to receive federal or state funding. To that end, the requirements set forth under Executive Order 11246 still applied to UC campuses. The relevant sections are as follows:

SP-1, Section 2:


Effective January 1, 1997, the University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as criteria for admission to the University or to any program of study.


SP-2, Section 1:


Effective January 1, 1996, the University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as criteria in its employment and contracting practices.


SP-1, Section 6 (and SP-2, Section 3):


Nothing in Section 2 (Section 1 of SP-2) shall prohibit any action which is strictly necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal or state program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal or state funds to the University.


Proposition 209


During the November 5, 1996 election, California voters voted 54% to 46% to amend the California Constitution through an initiative commonly known as Proposition 209, or the California Civil Rights Initiative. The proposition has been incorporated into the California Constitution under Article 1, Section 31. Although the constitutionality of the initiative was legally challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further appeal and let stand the new California law on November 3, 1997. The proposition includes the following sections:


(a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.


(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the State.


(f) For the purpose of this section, "State" shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the State itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State.


RE-28


On May 16, 2001 the Board of Regents of the University of California unanimously approved Regents Resolution RE-28. This resolution rescinded SP-1 and SP-2 and at the same time acknowledged the University would be governed by Article 1, Section 31 of the California Constitution (Proposition 209). The section of the resolution referring to the above statements is as follows:


Now, therefore, be it resolved that SP-1 and SP-2 are rescinded by this resolution, and:


A. That the University has complied with and will be governed by Article 1, Section 31 of the California Constitution by treating all students equally in the admissions process without regard to their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, and by treating employees and contractors similarly.


Students and state lawmakers had urged the repeal, arguing that the ban on "affirmative action" had caused the university to be perceived as inhospitable to minority students. Proponents of the repeal cited a sharp drop in the number of in-state black and Hispanic first-year students and the hiring rates of women and underrepresented minority faculty members.


This repeal reaffirms the University's commitment to a student body and workforce representative of California's diverse population. "This sends a clear and unequivocal message that people of all backgrounds are welcome at the University of California," said Regent Judith L. Hopkinson, who introduced RE-28.


The University of California remains governed, however, by both Proposition 209, which bans the use of preferences, and by federal law that bans employment discrimination by federal contractors. Although the repeal will have little immediate, practical impact on the University, RE-28 includes a commitment to K-12 outreach programs that aim to improve the educational preparation of California's elementary and secondary school students to pursue a college education.


Current Status


SP-1, SP-2, and Proposition 209 reiterated the intent that no preferential treatment be given to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Executive Orders 10925 and 11246 referred to taking affirmative action to ensure nondiscrimination based on these same characteristics. The question facing the University is how the institution will pursue equal opportunity for all qualified applicants, students and employees, and meet its obligations as a federal contractor. As the debate continues regarding what is permissible and what is ethically responsible, the University continues to fulfill its affirmative action obligations within the parameters of the law.


The University must publish its nondiscrimination policy, develop a written affirmative action plan, and take affirmative action to ensure discrimination is not practiced based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The University must also monitor its activities to ensure compliance with federal and state law and University nondiscrimination policies.


The Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity (OEOD) is responsible for maintaining, updating, and ensuring compliance with the University non-discrimination and affirmative action policy regarding academic and staff employment. OEOD also prepares and distributes an annual Affirmative Action Plan, and compiles data for affirmative action and organizational analysis. For more information about the University's nondiscrimination or affirmative action policies, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity at (949) 824-5594 or oeod@uci.edu