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Originally published Monday, December 28, 2015 at 4:32 PM

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It’s time for Washington to repeal its affirmative-action ban

Washington should reverse Initiative 200, a 1998 law that bans using race in college admissions and limits the ability of state colleges and universities to diversify student enrollment.


Seattle Times Editorial

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NOW that affirmative action is back in the public discourse, Washington should consider repealing Initiative 200, a law voters approved in 1998 that outlawed the use of race in college admissions.

I-200 promised to stop discrimination in college admission based on race, but instead it has set up other roadblocks at a time when public colleges and universities want to foster more diverse student bodies.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case involving Abigail Fisher, who claims she was denied entry to the University of Texas at Austin solely because she is white. The case has sparked a national debate about whether schools should consider race when admitting students.

Washington’s ban resulted in a competitive disadvantage when it comes to efforts to diversify by recruiting faculty and staff members of color, according to Ana Mari Cauce, the new president of the University of Washington, and Daniel Bernardo, interim president at Washington State University.

I-200 sends the message to some prospective, out-of-state faculty that UW does not welcome diversity nor values it, Cauce said.

Since 1998, schools have stepped up their recruitment efforts to encourage more students of color to apply. Enrollment of black and Latino students has risen steadily, but is not proportional to those ethnicities in the general population.

At UW, Latinos made up 7 percent of students in the fall of 2014, but college-age Latinos make up close to 16 percent of the state’s population. Enrollment of African-American students was 3.5 percent in fall 2014, even though college-age blacks made up 6.7 percent of the state’s population.

Cauce said UW’s admissions policy has been successful at bringing in more low-income and first-generation college students. However, it ignores a student’s racial identity while accounting for variables such as a student’s hometown, family income or activities.

The value of racial diversity goes beyond bringing together students who bring different perspectives to provide a better learning environment. Society benefits most when students of all backgrounds, especially underrepresented minorities, have access to higher education that enables greater career opportunities and a more educated citizenry.

I-200 law does not serve the needs of Washington and should be repealed.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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