A New Take On Affirmative Action

After a precipitous drop in black enrollment, UCLA has agressively recruited black students.
CBS
UCLA has good reason to cheer - for a victory off the field: A modest, but hard-won battle to reverse a slide in African American enrollment.

Brittany Carraby is the face of change.

"I always dreamt of being here, but when you're finally here in the moment it sort of feels surreal" she told CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Black enrollment at UCLA and other elite California universities went into freefall a decade ago after the culture clash over Proposition 209, which made California the first state to outlaw affirmative action and made a household name of its controversial sponsor, Ward Connerly.

When the number of black freshmen dropped below 100 last year - out of a class of almost 5,000 - UCLA went into crisis mode.

"I was shocked beyond belief that it could get this bad" said alumnus Peter Taylor.

Taylor, a stock broker, led the charge. He got other black alums to donate more than $1 million for scholarships. UCLA student mentors fanned out to inner city schools; the university actively pursued qualified black applicants, like Brittany, who graduated first in her high school class.

As a result, twice as many African Americans entered this year's freshman class.

"If you really believe in diversity, if you really believe in opportunity for all people, you need to figure out a process, a method by which to make that happen," Taylor said.

The controversy over race and education that's been plaguing UCLA for 10 years may have started in California, but it's not stopping there.

In Oklahoma before a football game, volunteers got signatures for an anti-affirmative action bill - part of Ward Connerly's latest drive to make it law in five more states and eventually the whole country.

"You'd have to be living on another planet not to realize that an era is ending here," Connerly said.

While at UCLA another is beginning, holding onto a tradition of excellence and diversity in a post-affirmative action world.