It is an understandably controversial and emotional issue. My purpose in sending this message to the university community is to remind all of us of the University of California's abiding commitment to the twin goals of excellence and diversity.
Last year the UC Board of Regents acted to end the use of race, religion, ethnicity and gender as factors in our admissions and employment practices. The changes approved by the regents may be affected by the outcome of the election. They may not. In either case, our goal must remain constant and our course steady. Every intellectual community must attract a variety of ideas and perspectives in order to flourish. And as a public institution of higher learning in the nation's most ethnically and culturally diverse state, we must continue to serve Californians of every race, gender, creed, ethnicity and socio-economic background. Virtually everyone agrees that a healthy California -- the California of the future -- needs an educated citizenry that draws its strengths and vitality from all segments of society.
Our goal will be more difficult to accomplish without taking race, ethnicity, and gender into account. We will need to build on our extensive experience with outreach efforts, going back more than 30 years, to maintain the University's diversity. In the past year we have made some significant strides:
Ä We have created the Outreach Task Force, whose mission is to develop new strategies and new sources of funding to help increase the number of minority and low-income students who are academically qualified and competitive for admission to UC.
Ä An additional $3 million has been set aside in the University's budget to assist the campuses in launching new programs to help prepare more underrepresented and low-income students for study at the university.
Ä We have issued new admissions guidelines, in response to the regents' action eliminating the use of race and gender, from which campuses will develop specific criteria for students enrolling in the spring quarter of 1998.
Ä We are strengthening our partnership with the schools. The university already has a number of innovative and exemplary programs that offer tutoring and counseling for students, professional development for teachers, applied and collaborative research for the improvement of schools. We are building on those efforts across the university system to make them even more accessible and effective in serving the schools, teachers and talented young people of California.
Even after the November election, and regardless of the outcome of Proposition 209, many questions will remain -- and UC will most certainly remain the focus of continued scrutiny and, most likely, the center of continued debate.
We are an academic community and, as such, our way of dealing with differences is through the reasoned discussion of ideas and the respectful treatment of differing views. In this spirit, I remind you that employees have every right to speak out on ballot measures, providing they do so on their own time and without the use of university resources.
I urge you to keep our values as a community of learning in mind as we face the changes ahead and ask you to join me in spreading the word that the University of California remains unwaveringly committed to diversity.
Richard C. Atkinson
University of California