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Demystifying ACA-5

Updated: 3 days ago

Edit: For the argument that ACA-5 is unconstitutional, please refer to the Supreme Court decision Gutter v. Gullinger, which ruled that each admissions decision is based on multiple factors, and that University of Michigan Law School could fairly use race as one of them. The case reaffirmed the court’s position that diversity on campus is a compelling state interest for Michigan.

Edit 2: ACA-5 is now a ballot measure, Proposition 16! Remember to register to vote and support Prop 16 this November!


Dear Asian Youth,

What is ACA-5?

ACA-5, or the Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, is a California constitutional amendment that repeals Proposition 209, which had prohibited the state of California from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or nationality specifically in public education and employment. At first sight, Prop 209 seems to make sense - no one should be treated differently based on race, sex, etc. but the situation is complicated on the grounds that prop was specifically introduced to repeal affirmative action in UC schools.

After Prop 209 was passed and ‘race-neutral’ admissions began, the likelihood of applicants from underrepresented groups being enrolled into at least once UC campus decreased by 7%. Most dramatically, the enrollment of underrepresented groups fell by more than 60% at Berkeley and UCLA campuses. The end of affirmative action in California led to a 1.4 percentage decline in all underrepresented applicants’ likelihood of earning a Bachelor’s degree.

As the University of California President Janet Napolitano put it, "It makes little sense to exclude any consideration of race in admissions when the aim of the University’s holistic process is to fully understand and evaluate each applicant through multiple dimensions. Proposition 209 has forced California public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state." Recently, the University of California Board of Regents unanimously endorsed ACA-5.

What is the controversy?

There are a lot of myths surrounding ACA-5, so I will attempt to dispel them first before addressing more relevant reasons for opposition.

First off, ACA-5 does more than just help minority students, it also has benefits for women and for minorities in businesses and employment. For example, this policy would allow California to have specific initiatives that help out Asian-owned businesses that been effected by COVID19-related racism, which is impossible under Prop 209.