UC Berkeley may be legally barred from considering race in admissions, but that doesn’t mean race isn’t still very, very important at the school. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Egelko indicates that California’s flagship public university just received a $16 million gift to promote diversity and racial studies on campus:

The university said a gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund will establish an ambitious program of teaching, research and public service on inequality and diversity. The project will endow five faculty research chairs, including one on disability and another on the rights of lesbians and gays.

Although the newly announced program does not address student admissions, [Berkeley Chancellor Robert] Birgeneau said, it is designed to make UC Berkeley’s environment “more inclusive” and therefore make the university “progressively more attractive to people from diverse backgrounds.”

The Haas family of San Francisco has been incredibly generous to Berkeley in the past; both the school of business and a pavilion in the center of campus are named for the family. The family, whose fortune derives from Levi Strauss and Company, has also made numerous anonymous donations to the school and the Bay Area.

With matching gifts, the Haas Fund could increase to $31 million.

African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans made up 26 percent of Cal’s freshman class in 1995, before Proposition 209 prohibited state institutions in California from making hiring or admissions decisions based on race. The three minority groups constitute 15.4 percent of today’s Berkeley freshmen.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer