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California State University San Marcos’ (CSUSM) new initiative promises admission to Black students affiliated with specific organizations.

University president Ellen Neufeldt signed the agreement on Feb. 26, officially approving an agreement with the Coalition on Black and African American Education. The collaboration seeks to “close educational equity gaps related to historically underrepresented students” by “open[ing] more doors to Black students.”

Under the five-year agreement, “CSUSM will guarantee admission to incoming first-time freshmen and community college transfers from members of the coalition who have met the minimum entrance requirements of California State University and other criteria,” the university website states. 

Organizations included in the network include three religious institutes including The View Church, Friendship Baptist Church, and New Birth Church. 

Additionally, seven other organizations have allied with the coalition, including Hera Hub Tecoma, Inland Empire Men’s Club, Concerns Parents Alliance/College Bound Programs, North San Diego County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The BSU Network, North San Diego County NAACP, and Education Services and Parent Engagement for the Val Verde Unified School District.

US News & World Report describes CSUSM as “selective.” The university acceptance rate is approximately 79%.

In addition to receiving a boost in the admissions process, students accepted through this program will be offered additional resources once on campus, including access to the Personalized Academic Success Services and career counseling through the Black Student Center.

In a statement toCampus Reform, the California Federation of College Republicans said that “CFCR believes there is no place for racial discrimination or racial preferences in California’s public universities, especially in the all-important admissions process. Public universities should base admissions on academic merit, not race.”

California’s state constitution prohibits universities from enacting policies that are racially discriminatory. In the past, such policies have prevented California public universities from enacting affirmative action policies. 

In response, public advocacy groups, such as Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, have expressed concerns regarding the legality of CSUSM’s initiative. 

Californians for Equal Rights Foundation Executive Director Wenyuan Wu told Campus Reform that the policies there are better approaches the university could adopt to serve “disadvantaged students.”

“There are much better and more constructive way[s] to improve upward mobility and educational access for underserved communities” she stated. “Need-based affirmative action programs that give reasonable assistance to socioeconomically disadvantaged students regardless of race are perfectly legal in California.”

Additionally, State Senator Brian Jones shared his concerns regarding the policy with Campus Reform.

“California voters have repeatedly made it clear that all Californians deserve equal opportunity to pursue higher education at state universities, to seek state jobs and to compete for state contracts,” he said.

 Jones represents District 38, which encompasses CSUSM.

“However, those statewide votes, along with previous US Supreme Court rulings, have also made clear that racial quotas are not appropriate,” he continued..

Jones also claimed that this policy would invite legal action.

“While I appreciate the intent, and understand that the folks at San Marcos believe they have found a way to the thread the needle, they have to know that they are inviting lawsuits from any student with the grades who is denied admission while this program is in place,” Jones stated. 

Senator Jones went on to state that more “emphasis should be placed on outreach and inclusiveness for all” instead of “playing identity politics and separating people based on their race or culture.”

Margaret Chantung, a spokesperson for CSUSM, told Campus Reform that the memorandum “does not violate California Proposition 209’s prohibition on granting a preference in public education to any individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” 

According to Chantung, this is “because the admissions requirements in the [memorandum] are the same as what CSUSM requires of any student, regardless of background.”

“As set forth in the MOU, membership in the Coalition is not restricted or conditioned in any way by an individual’s race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. In addition, the MOU does not create a preference or different admission standards for Coalition members,” Chantung explained.

Chantung added that the partnership with the Coalition of Black and African American Education is “part of CSUSM’s overarching strategy to reach students who are not currently immersed in a college-going environment.” 

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This content was originally published here.