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Polis Report

Civil Rise

By Robert Struckman

San Jose State University's campus is filled with the beginning-of-the-year bustle as classes start this week.

At the other end of the bay, UC-Berkeley students picket in protest of Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative. Signs read "13 applied and 0 attending. Why?"

But down here in the South Bay, SJSU moseys along its regular multicultural way.

Minority applicants rose for the fourth straight year. And the accepted students at SJSU for fall are more diverse than ever: 4,500 Asians, 3,800 whites, 2,000 Latinos and 700 blacks. Asians for the first time may be the school's largest ethnic group.

In contrast, as the picket sign says, 13 African Americans applied to Boalt Law School. Zero are attending.

Forget state and national politics about diversity for a moment. It's been years since whites constituted a majority at SJSU. And despite 209, the student body continues to diversify. (The measure, passed last November, is being challenged in court and hasn't directly affected admissions.)

Over the last four years, Asian enrollment has risen 17 percent at San Jose State University. White enrollment has dropped 26 percent.

Tami Urner, an institutional researcher at SJSU, says the demographic shifts are a no-brainer.

"The student body just reflects the population in the valley," she says. SJSU reflects the population more directly because it's less competitive. SJSU's acceptance rate is 76 percent.

But Lisa Lim, the director of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco, says another trend may be at work.

Race and university admissions are a hot combo in California these days. During the 1997 spring semester, students at the Davis, Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses held hunger strikes to protest 209, which ends race-based affirmative action in university admissions.

Lim says minority students may opt for state and city universities, without even applying to UC schools. If that's the case, SJSU will quietly continue to see an increase in minority students.

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From the Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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