University of California expresses 'disappointment' that voters rejected affirmative action

University of California leaders decried the failure of Proposition 16, vowing to continue efforts to advance diversity on campuses.

One official said that the California voters delivered a "painful" result by rejecting affirmative action.

Campus officials and student activists within the University of California system voiced disapproval over California voters' decision to reject Proposition 16, which would have overturned the ban on racial and sex consideration in public university admissions.

Michael V. Drake, the president of the University of California system said in a statement that he was "disappointed" that the ballot measure failed, but expressed that he's still committed to "attract and support" a diverse student body.

“UC remains steadfast in its commitment to attract and support a student body that reflects California’s dynamism and diversity, despite this setback,” Drake said. “We will continue our unwavering efforts to expand underrepresented groups’ access to a UC education.”

The measure, which was endorsed by the UC Board of Regents, was intended to overturn Proposition 209 which banned affirmative action in 1996. 

It failed by a margin of 57.1 to 42.9 percent.

[RELATED: California fails to overturn ban on affirmative action in college admissions]

“The University of California’s efforts to address racial inequities were greatly hindered by Proposition 209,” said UC Regents Chair John A. Pérez in the press release. “The failure of Proposition 16 means barriers will remain in place to the detriment of many students, families and California at large. We will not accept inequality on our campuses and will continue addressing the inescapable effects of racial and gender inequity.” 

The statement also said that the university system will continue to improve the diversity of the student body despite the decision.

“Despite the failure of Proposition 16, the University will continue to look for innovative and creative approaches to further improve the diversity of its student body through outreach to underserved groups, schools and communities; support for college preparation; and efforts to close equity gaps among students attaining a UC education," the press release stated.

[RELATED: UT-Austin faces lawsuit for allegedly discriminating against white students]

The chancellor of the University of California-Los Angeles also weighed in, saying that the vote by residents of California has yielded a "painful" result to the UCLA community.

“We know this result is painful to many in our community,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor Emily Carter wrote in an email to students. “As disheartening as this defeat is to many, we remain determined to do all we can within the confines of the law to bring together people from a diverse array of backgrounds to learn, live and work at our institution. On the admissions side, we’ve seen success through the use of holistic application reviews, support for diversity programs, and partnerships with high schools and community groups serving underrepresented students. We will expand these and other efforts.”

“Voters had a chance to end California’s failed experiment in race-blindness and usher in a new era of opportunity for students and workers in this state,” UC Student Association President Aidan Arasasingham said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Californians did not live up to our ideals of equity and justice today.”

Arasasingham noted that only nine states don’t allow affirmative action.

A third student at UCLA who wishes to remain anonymous, however, told Campus Reform that he was "very glad" Proposition 16 was struck down by voters.

“I am very glad that Proposition 16 was rejected by Californians,” a UCLA student told Campus Reform. “The former Secretary of State under the George W. Bush Administration, Condoleeza Rice, famously described affirmative action as 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.' Truly, all administrative decisions should be made with only the applicant’s merit in mind. The United States has clearly moved into a post-Civil Rights Era where we should carry out, rather than denounce, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream. I just hoped that the proposition had been rejected with a larger margin, however. Affirmative action policy proposals should be decisively defeated; the voters must send a message to those in power that discrimination on the basis of superficial characteristics should never be tolerated.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Arik_Schneider