Transcript: Michael Drake, President of the University of California, on Face the Nation, July 2, 2023

The following is a transcript of an interview with Michael Drake, President of the University of California System, which aired on Face the Nation on July 2, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before the Supreme Court ruling last week, there were nine states with bans on affirmative action and college admissions. California was the first country to ban it following a ballot initiative in 1996. Joining us now is the President of the University of California System, Dr. Michael Drake. Welcome back to the program. We wanted to use your experience here: The school system has spent $500 million to promote diversity since 2004. Is a diverse student body possible without affirmative action? And how do you define diversity at this point?

DR. MICHAEL DRAKE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: Thank you. You know, since the ’90s and before that, we’ve tried to do everything we can to reach out to the students that we wanted to apply to our universities through outreach and other methods. In a comprehensive admission process, we examine all the factors that led to the life of this person. And they are interested in being trained with us. And we believe that this can be done very effectively. Affirmative action was a tool that we and others have used in the past, we read the court’s decision and we had the laws in California that changed in the 1990’s. And we are very pleased that over these many years we have been able to attract students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does this court decision affect you at all?

DR. DRAKE: Well, we’ll have to see how it actually turns out. You know, when we saw a law change in California in the 1990’s, it had a profound impact on us in a number of ways. And in a way it limited the way we could host students. But in another way, the students were told that California and the University of California were not interested in them. This was something that was due to actions taken by our regents before it came into effect. As a result, students we would have liked to have accepted, fully qualified students, felt unwelcome and we found them going to other schools, private schools in California and others across the country. That’s the whole nation, so it’s not like students don’t hear that we’re not interested or that colleges aren’t interested in them. And I think that’s going to have less of an impact on us, in our opinion, because it’s affecting the whole – the whole country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you used other indicators or tools when recruiting. I just read an article about the Socioeconomic Deprivation Scale (SED) used by University College/UC Davis and medical school. What is an adversity score and how does it work?

DR. DRAKE: What they are doing – what Davis is doing, we and our other universities, other campuses and our university welcome it in many ways – is to examine the circumstances of those who apply to us and give them full consideration when they check the quality of the application and make a decision. And indeed, we do that for every student: we look at who you are, what you’ve done, and what makes you a qualified applicant as we recruit and admit you to our colleges and universities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you define diversity? We looked at the makeup of the students before affirmative action, and then last fall. And the percentages that we can show there for different groups on the screen have changed, and the demographics of the state have changed as well. The only thing that stands out is the proportion of African American students, which remains somewhat stable at this level of four or four and a half percent. Why was that actually unmoved?

DR. DRAKE: Yes, I think that the problems of racism and lack of opportunity that we find in our society are persistent and pervasive. And we’ve fought them, we’ve worked all these years to take big chances against them. Affirmative action was a tool we used in the past that has been removed. Still fighting against the legacy of centuries of oppression and denial this country applies, we are doing our best to create more opportunities for students who come from this unequal society.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how can you — because — because you’re essentially being asked to quantify in any way, a — a diverse student body? Are you trying to do justice to the population structure of this state? I mean, how do you know if you’re succeeding or if you’re failing?

DR. DRAKE: Yeah, we’re not doing anything prospective. We try to create the possibility in a comprehensive way to really evaluate the quality of each application. Looking back, we can see how the students we enrolled resembled the students graduating from California high schools. And we certainly recognize when there are major inequalities there, and we work to close those gaps by reaching out to secondary schools that haven’t sent students to us, offering more support programs and making sure they apply to us, a range of financial aid programs to help students from low-income backgrounds; a variety of things designed to provide access to university, which we believe is good for us and good for society.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m interested to know which part you think works best. And you know, the last time you were with us in 2020, the school system stopped standardized testing at admissions. You’ve had that under control for some time now. It works? Should other schools look into this?

DR. DRAKE: Yes, from what we found, I would say two things. First, we abolished the SAT in 2020. We did that just before the pandemic, but it happened to be implemented during the pandemic. So it’s a bit difficult to say how much of an impact this has had compared to the pandemic. What we did see, however, was an increase in applications from students from all backgrounds who have been reluctant to apply in the past, even though we may have admitted them. So we’re excited about the surge in applications from these – from these people and so on – and our classes are extraordinarily strong. Our students are doing pretty well today. So that was a pretty positive thing for us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re keeping it like it sounds?


MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. dr Drake, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. We’ll be right back.

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