This essay provides an analysis of the history of admissions at the University of California (UC), including the development of affirmative action programs in the 1960s and, more recently, the heated political battle over the use of race and gender preferences at the University. In an era of mass higher education, the debate over affirmative action has renewed a persistent question within democratic societies: who should and should not have access to a public university education? Two general themes will be discussed. The first reflects different stages in the historical development of UC admissions. Admissions has moved from a process intended to consider a large number of factors for providing access, to a more rigid system that includes the adoption of standardized tests beginning in the 1960s, and now full-circle toward a more dynamic process - yet without the tool of race and gender preferences. The second theme revolves around the debate over affirmative action and points to a source of tension within higher education systems: how to define and create a meritocracy that provides opportunities for individuals, while also meeting the larger needs of society.
September 1, 1999
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
The Evolution Of A Social Contract: The University Of California Before And In The Aftermath Of Affirmative Action. John Aubrey Douglass. CSHE.3.99. (September 1999)