The Journal of Higher Education 75.5 (2004) 599-601
[Access article in PDF]
The University of California, the premier system of public higher education in the United States, has, almost inevitably, been the laboratory for social issues implicating higher education over the years, from loyalty oaths in the 1950's to the free speech movement in the 1960's to Bakke and affirmative action in the 1970's to the development of mechanized agriculture in the 1980's to diversity in the 1990's. All of these issues have been chronicled, often in book-length treatments, and when coupled with Clark Kerr's masterful accounts of these and other issues (Kerr, 1991; 1995; 2001), observant readers have much grist for the mill. Loyalty oath issues have been examined extensively (Gardner, 1967; Schrecker, 1986); the free speech movement figures in a number of studies (Stadtman, 1970; Kerr, 2001); scholarship on the Bakke case still rains down upon the landscape, especially as Hopwood fragged through the Fifth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court accepted the Michigan cases (Gratz; Grutter), calling Bakke's continued vitality into question; Jim Hightower scathingly reviewed the role of agribusiness in UC policies in his screed, Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times (Hightower, 1973); while the California Civil Rights Initiative history was central to books by Lydia Chavez (Chavez, 1998), Peter Schrag (Schrag, 1998), and Robert Post and Michael Rogin (Post and Rogin, 1996). Of course, these are only the books, and a small subset at that. Hundreds of articles and another dozen books have also appeared on these and related topics, making the University of California one of the most attractive targets of higher education scholarship.
This volume, written by participant observer and former UC-Berkeley Law School student Andrea Guerrero, chronicles the 1995 decision of the UC Regents to rescind affirmative action in the UC System. She also recounts the vote by the California electorate a year later to approve Proposition 209 and, in effect, to extend the ban on affirmative action to all public institutions in the State. Boalt Hall, the UC-Berkeley law school, was Ground Zero in these struggles, going from 26% underrepresented minority enrollments in 1994 to 5% in 1997, with bitter debates over minority enrollment issues and admissions policies.
As a member of the last affirmative action class (those admitted in 1996, who graduated in May, 1999), Guerrero charts the Boalt students' anger and the complex, frustrating events of this period of time, including confrontations and protests by students, the faculty and administration handwringing, and at the forefront, the machinations of the UC Regents, led by Ward Connerly, the African American conservative regent who led the charge against affirmative action at the regental level and statewide in the ballot initiative. To her credit, Guerrero has assembled many farflung and fugitive documents, memoranda, and other materials for her narrative. She interviewed dozens of persons, including the beleagured Boalt dean, the estimable Herma Hill Kay, who was fighting the good fight, but who was ground down by her conservative law faculty and the Republican-appointed Regents, led by Connerly and then Governor [End Page 599] Pete Wilson, who had his own presidential agenda during these events. She writes well, and the narrative is often riveting, especially when she recounts the shock and awe experienced by Boalt students of color who just simply cannot believe what was happening to their ranks, following the Regents' action. I recognized this state of mind, as I lived through a similar experience in the Fifth Circuit, after the dreadful Hopwood decision decimated the ranks of minority law students in Texas law schools. There were certainly times when I despaired and thought there was no god (Olivas, 1997)
The most poignant part of this interesting story is the charge into the fight by the various students (both white and minority) and progressive alumni of Boalt Hall, who raised money for lobbying, did their homework...