Defeating the racial privacy initiative was only a start for the detractors of California businessman Ward Connerly. Now his foes are mounting a petition drive to remove Mr. Connerly from the University of California Board of Regents.
Mr. Connerly authored California's failed Proposition 54, an initiative to ban the collection of race data by the state, which was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin in the October gubernatorial-recall election.
He also headed the Proposition 209 campaign, which banned the consideration of race in state businesses and schools. California voters approved that measure in 1996, and Mr. Connerly is now attempting to get a similar initiative passed in Michigan.
The petition, which can be accessed at www.ThePetitionSite.com, reads, in part: "Ward Connerly, the most notorious and fanatical right-wing opponent of civil rights in California, still sits securely ensconced on the Board of Regents of the University of California, using his position every day to advance a right-wing national agenda aimed at rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights Movement of 1960s and rendering meaningless the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that separate can never be equal."
The online petition, initiated last week by a liberal advocacy group called Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), had 2,199 signees at press time.
"All of this is being done by one group, this BAMN," said Connerly spokeswoman Diane Schachterle. She said the recent spate of Connerly-bashing started with the University of Michigan affirmative-action case earlier this year.
"Then Proposition 54 drew out all of these opponents," she said. "But it is clear that they seem to make a big noise. They are very vocal on college campuses, but it is contained within these campuses."
BAMN has requested several times that Mr. Connerly resign from the Board of Regents, "but that is just not going to happen," Miss Schachterle said.
Calls to BAMN, which has chapters in Michigan and California, were not returned.
Mr. Connerly, whose term on the board ends in January 2005, has been a favorite enemy of college campus leftists for his most recent efforts to turn back affirmative action. He was appointed to the UC board by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican.
Rallies have been held, panels organized and student newspaper editorials run, skewering his efforts. And several protests against Mr. Connerly were held recently across the state.
With clear political implications in these demonstrations, Mr. Connerly has found support from his colleagues on the right. Students for Academic Freedom, founded by 1960s-radical-turned-conservative David Horowitz, has stood up for Mr. Connerly and his work as a regent.
"Ward Connerly has done nothing but serve as he should, as an advocate for students," said Kendra Carney, president of the University of California at Los Angeles chapter of Students for Academic Freedom. "There are many students who do not support affirmative action. People are demanding his resignation simply because he doesn't support affirmative action, but it is not wrong to disagree with that practice."
Mr. Connerly has been accused of using his position as a regent to advance his political agenda, she noted. "But academics and politics merge in his position and he has to deal with that."
In Michigan, where Mr. Connerly has launched an effort to ban race preferences at the state level, his opponents have galvanized after a September poll found that 52 percent of state residents oppose affirmative action programs while 39 percent support them.
Groups with names like "Students Supporting Affirmative Action" and "Academics for Affirmative Action and Social Justice" have merged with established campus chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to register voters and protest Mr. Connerly.
BAMN is part of a cadre of activism centered in the Detroit area. The National Woman's Rights Organizing Coalition and the Ann Arbor Antiracist Defense Campaign both list their mailing address as the same post office box held by BAMN.