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The California Cover-up

- Abstract

California’s state-run universities have long been considered among the glories, if not the crowning glory, of public higher education in the United States. They have also, for over four decades, been the sites of battles-royal over some of the most fractious issues facing the nation. The radical student movement of the 1960’s found a prominent home on the Berkeley campus; in 1966, vowing to “clean up the mess” and fire Clark Kerr, the university’s accommodationist president, the political novice Ronald Reagan bested Pat Brown, California’s sitting governor, and began his upward ascent to the White House.

The most contentious battles by far have come in the realm of affirmative action. In 1973 and 1974, Allen Bakke sought admittance to the medical school at the University of California at Davis. Rejected in both years, he sued after learning that his test scores were higher than those of other candidates whose applications had been weighted favorably because they were members of minority groups. In 1978, the Supreme Court agreed with Bakke that his rights under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had been abridged. But the decision was an ambiguous one, outlawing the use of explicit numerical quotas while continuing to allow race to be taken into account in admissions to public schools and universities.

About the Author

Jennifer Rubin is an attorney and journalist living in Virginia.