U. of California regents stall affirmative action ban

College Press Service

SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite a bitter public feud earlier this year, University of California regents did a recent about-face, agreeing to UC President Richard Atkinson's plan to postpone the controversial ban on affirmative action policies.

In a voice vote, the regents agreed Feb. 15 to apply the ban to undergraduates entering in the spring quarter of 1998, not fall of 1997 as originally planned, a university spokesperson said.

The ban on racial and gender preferences still will apply to graduate and professional students entering in the fall quarter of 1997.

Atkinson found himself heavily criticized by the regents and Gov. Pete Wilson when he first ordered a delay, stating there wasn't enough time to redesign the application process on UC's nine campuses.

Facing hints that he might lose his job, he later apologized for the decision. Now, the regents seem to have had a surprising change of heart.

But Regent Ward Connerly, who once said he was "furious" at Atkinson's decision, told a local radio station that the regents voted for the delay to bring peace to the university and not necessarily because they agreed with Atkinson.

The regents' vote last July to abolish racial and gender preferences has met with student protests at several UC campuses.

The unrest continued this week when Charles E. Young, chancellor of UC-Los Angeles and a vocal opponent of the ban, announced that he will resign next year.

Young has led UCLA for 27 years, longer than any major American university chancellor. "It is time to hand over the reins to new leadership," he said in announcing his retirement.

Although he plans to stay at UCLA and teach political science, Young told reporters that the regents' decision to drop affirmative action policies played a role in his decision.

Some UC students fear they are losing one of their most influential allies and worry that the regents will replace Young with a chancellor more sympathetic toward them.

"He has spoken out. He has increasingly become a thorn in (the regents') side," said Charles Lewis, chairman of UCLA's Academic Senate, in the school's student newspaper, The Daily Bruin. "The political views of the regents cannot help but contaminate the choice of academic leadership."

"This is the end of an era."

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