DETROIT Offering a perspective of what a public university looks like without affirmative action policies, Eugene Garcia, dean of education at the University of California”s Berkeley campus, testified in court yesterday about the resegregation of the UC system.
Garcia, who also spoke about the covert biases affecting Latinos in education, is an expert witness for the intervening defendants in the lawsuit challenging the University of Michigan”s Law School”s use of race in admissions.
Garcia told U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman that Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action programs in California, has resulted in a significant drop in underrepresented minorities on the UC campuses, despite outreach programs.
“We are highly frustrated,” Garcia said. “We do not see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Garcia added that the number of minorities has dropped at both the most selective UC schools and in the system overall. Because minorities are moving towards the less selective Riverside and Santa Cruz campuses, Garcia said, the UC system is becoming segregated. “In the future, we”ll see three to four universities that are primarily white and Asian and four universities that are primarily brown and black,” he said.
Garcia noted that biases in standardized tests have had a detrimental affect on minorities, particularly Latinos, who largely grew up in Spanish-speaking homes in California and haven”t been exposed to “academic English” the way white test-takers may have been.
“The better you are at academic English, the better you”ll do,” Garcia said, noting that Latinos in particular score low on the verbal section of the test.
Cross-examination of Garcia was postponed to accommodate Columbia University Prof. Eric Foner, a witness for the intervenors who specializes in American history.
Foner went into a detailed history of how race became “a fundamental dividing line” in the United States. He said today”s society cannot separate itself from a history of dramatic racial separation.
“Attitudes are not genetically based,” Foner said. “They are the product of a long, long history of different experiences.”
In Foner”s recent book about American perspectives on freedom, he said, he found that most white Americans think freedom is something they have and most black Americans think freedom is something they are still trying to achieve.
“This attitude percolates into every other aspect of society,” Foner said.
Kai Richter, attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights, cross-examined Foner, paying particular attention to the report that Foner was commissioned by the intervenors to produce for the lawsuit.
Richter pointed out passages in the report that noted the long history of American discrimination against Asians and worked to demonstrate that Asians, who are not beneficiaries of affirmative action policies, have also shared a history of exclusion.
Foner said he agreed that there is some discrimination against Asians that still exists in today”s society but that it is “considerably less than in the past.”