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UC Berkeley Unveils Plan To Maintain Race Diversity

By Richard C. Paddock
Los Angeles Times
OAKLAND, Calif.

Despite the abolition of affirmative action at the University of California, UC Berkeley officials pledged Thursday to maintain racial diversity at the flagship campus by helping minority students long before they reach college age.

"We want all students to know they still have an opportunity to receive the finest education at Berkeley - no matter whether their skin is white, black, brown or yellow," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien. "We pledge to keep the opportunity alive."

Speaking to a group of inner-city Oakland students, Tien unveiled "The Berkeley Pledge," a program to help prepare disadvantaged students to meet admission requirements at UC Berkeley.

The initiative, designed to avoid controversy by targeting students according to family income and education level rather than race, also will provide $60 million in scholarships for disadvantaged students accepted for admission.

The Berkeley campaign is the first concrete step taken by any University of California campus to maintain racial diversity since the UC Board of Regents voted in July to ignore recommendations by the UC president and the heads of its nine campuses and end race-based preferences in student admissions.

Tien insisted that the "Berkeley Pledge" is consistent with the Regents' action and is a way of helping minorities without relying on the racial and ethnic criteria used under current affirmative action programs that grant preference to students from under-represented minority groups.

"As a public university, our campus has a historic responsibility to serve all of California," Tien said. "Our commitment has made Berkeley an international model for excellence through diversity.' We do not intend to retreat from our commitment."

UC Regent Ward Connerly, who led the fight to dismantle UC's affirmative action policies, said he was thrilled by the Berkeley program.

"This is exactly the kind of initiative that I certainly contemplated when I offered the resolution about eliminating the use of race and ethnicity and other factors," he said.

"We all want diversity. Only a person who is not of good will does not want diversity. We only want to achieve it naturally, and this Berkeley pledge is exactly what we had in mind."

Connerly said other UC campuses should propose similar initiatives, calling Berkeley's plan a model for the proper role of the university in ensuring diversity.

The state's public elementary and secondary schools bear the primary responsibility for making sure that all students are prepared to meet UC requirements, and "UC Berkeley is saying this is what we will do as a partner to help you meet them. But it is really a K-12 responsibility," Connerly said.

At Fremont High School in Oakland, Tien joined with superintendents of school districts in the San Francisco Bay area to sign the pledge and promised to work with public schools to help recruit and prepare minority students.

University officials said the program will not be limited to minority youth; students will be enrolled based on non-racial criteria such as family income and parents' educational level.

But given the low economic standing of many minority families, most of the targeted junior and senior high school students will likely be black or Latino.

School superintendents from San Francisco, Oakland and other cities were enthusiastic about the Berkeley program and the opportunities it can provide for their minority students.

Like other UC administrators, faculty members and students, Tien had

Known as a skillful fund-raiser, Tien said UC Berkeley will immediately pump $1 million into the program, which will target youngsters. Among its features, the program will:

-Expand the recruitment of minority students by sending university faculty, staff members and students to secondary schools to attract future applicants;

-Provide campus mentors to help youngsters prepare for college and adjust to campus life once they arrive;

-Create an intensive summer program for high school students, and increase the number of existing weekend and summer courses to improve college preparation;

-Raise more money for scholarships, to keep UC Berkeley affordable in an era of soaring tuition, and increase campus work opportunities for students;

-Provide special coaching for disadvantaged students in fields such as chemistry, math and engineering, and encourage them to pursue graduate careers.