Perhaps no other issue in our nation's history has been so challenging and so inescapable as that of race. It continues to surface with great moral force because it has to do fundamentally with who we are and how we live.
Today at Berkeley we are on the front lines as a new chapter unfolds. Some years ago, visionary Clark Kerr said the great experiment in higher education would be whether diversity would be achieved at the expense of excellence. At Berkeley, the evidence is overwhelming that diversity does not diminish excellence, but in fact, enhances it. It is one of our greatest accomplishments and is recognized as such throughout the world.
In years past, the University has built a diverse student body by taking race into account as one factor in the process of reviewing candidates for admission. Now, as a result of action by the UC Board of Regents and the expectations of Californians as expressed with the passage of Proposition 209, this means of assuring a diverse student body is no longer available to us.
The initial consequence of this policy change-the composition of the entering law school class at Boalt Hall-is deeply disturbing. We fear we will face a less dramatic, but similar circumstance next fall when race will no longer be considered as a factor in freshman admissions. We cannot hide from the fact that the initial effect of the new regental policy and Proposition 209 will be to yield a less diverse student body. I do not believe this is in the best interests of our students, whose education is enhanced in a diverse environment; the employers of California, who desire a diverse workforce; and the citizens of California, who live in the most diverse state in the union.
The decline in the number of underrepresented minority students at Boalt, and the anticipated decline next fall for undergraduate freshmen, is simply unacceptable. While the purpose of our actions must be to continue to develop a student body that reflects the brilliant diversity of our state and nation, we are required to change our means of doing so. Toward that end, we are continuously reviewing our admissions and recruitment processes to assure that we are doing all that we can do within UC policy and state law to achieve a diverse and excellent student body, faculty and staff. We have begun to increase dramatically our outreach efforts with California public schools to build a larger cohort of disadvantaged students who will be competitive at Berkeley. We will be working closely with individuals and organizations outside the University to improve the financial assistance provided to students we hope to recruit. We must also work as a community to assure prospective students that we are committed to diversity and to the creation of a hospitable and supportive environment for everyone who comes here.
As it has been through most of its history, Berkeley is a symbol and focal point for the nation, known both for its excellence and for its freedom and openness. In that spirit, we welcome the review of Boalt Hall's admissions by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the continuing scrutiny of all parties to this issue and, indeed, the peaceful protest that we anticipate. We have nothing to hide. We are proud of our record and our determination. We believe that the research of our faculty, the constructive efforts of our students and staff, and the debate that we stimulate will benefit the nation.
There will be ample opportunities during the academic year to discuss and debate the many issues surrounding race in this country. I welcome this debate and embrace the challenges it brings with it. I urge all members of the campus community to make your views known, to volunteer your efforts in local schools and to help write the next chapter in the history of race relations in a way that will benefit the common good.
Robert M. Berdahl