June 15 (UPI) -- Regents of the 10-campus University of California system voted Monday to endorse a movement by state lawmakers to repeal a decades-old end to affirmative action in the state.
"If we are going to be serious about creating a university that truly serves the public interest, we cannot be silent," John Perez, chairman of the regents said at a San Francisco meeting, held by video conference. "We cannot be neutral."
The lower house of the California state legislature voted last week to amend the state Constitution to allow electors to vote on repealing Proposition 290. In 1996, voters approved an initiative that forbids any government body from granting preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity or sex.
The amendment must be ratified by the California Senate to appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
A report to regents of the state's universities said that even "race-neutral" admission policies for more than 20 years could not create a student body and faculty population that accurately reflects California's racial demographics.
"Despite years of effort with race-neutral admissions at UC, UC enrollment of students from underrepresented groups and recruitment of faculty of color falls short of reflecting the diversity of California's population," the report, from the office of UC President Janet Napolitano said.
About 75,400, or 26 percent of the UC system's students are "underrepresented minorities," according to the system's fall enrollment dashboard. About 4 percent of students in both the system's undergraduate and graduate programs are African American, the 2019 enrollment numbers showed.
About 70 percent of UC tenured faculty are white, with 16 percent Asian-Pacific Islander, 7 percent Latino and 3 percent black, a 2018 report from the Campaign for College Opportunity showed.
Nationwide, affirmative action has been losing support at universities.
In 2018, the Department of Justice pushed back Obama-era guidelines that attempted to achieve more diversity in higher education by using race in admissions decisions.
In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would investigate and sue universities that discriminated against white applicants, including Harvard University.