At Berkeley, Diversity Takes a Hit

The University of California at Berkeley campus has been the center of many a political imbroglio, and the recent split of UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is no exception. New B-school Dean Thomas J. Campbell finds himself at the center of controversy after he ordered an internal review of the school's affirmative action programs. The review found that the school's partial funding of fellowships sponsored by the consortium, a nonprofit that helps minority MBAs, and faculty representation on the consortium's board violated Proposition 209. That was the 1996 ballot initiative that banned the consideration of race as a criterion for admission into the California university system.

The timing of the review and decision is raising eyebrows on campus, say students and faculty, since Prop 209 compliance was never considered problematic under previous deans Laura D'Andrea Tyson and William A. Hasler. A former GOP congressman and California state senator who backed Prop 209, Campbell insists in a statement that his personal politics weren't behind the moves. He declined to comment otherwise. University lawyers say Prop 209 remains binding no matter what the Supreme Court decides in two University of Michigan suits.

Whatever the case, the pressure still might have been political. Last summer, two students denied admission to Haas sent letters asking the university for details about the school's racial and gender makeup and admissions procedures. "Dean Campbell was under the impression that this was preparation for a potential lawsuit against the Haas School," says Jay Stowsky, an associate dean. That led to the review and forced resignation of faculty member David Downes from the consortium's board last December.

The moves angered Haas students, whose reaction to the split was "quite negative," says one professor. Campbell has since been on a public-relations blitz about the school's diversity efforts. And he led a town-hall-type student meeting on Apr. 21 -- a "very emotional" scene, say students who attended. Their beef: Diversity seems a low priority for Campbell.

Still, the outcry has engaged the dean in dialogue with students about diversity -- something that students claimed had been missing previously. And the hubbub has galvanized student opposition to Prop 209, which already had slashed minority enrollment from 14% before, to just 5% today -- and falling.

By Brian Hindo in New York

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