When the Supreme Court struck down the minority admission plan here to admit a white man named Allan Bakke, it raised fears that such programs everywhere would be destroyed.
But now, as this year's freshman medical classes around the country settle in to the routine of white coats and laboratory work, it has become evident that little has changed.
Blacks, who numbered 5.9 percent of the nation's medical freshman last year, comprised 6.1 percent this year, and, according to Harvard sociologist and race relations expert Thomas Pettigrew, who studied the situation, "We couldn't really show any negative effect."
If there is a visible impact, it has been here at the University of California medical school: among the new freshmen, there is one black.
It is not that the medical school wanted it that way. Six black students were offered places in the class under a revamped admissions program, but only one, a Ghanaian-born woman, was accepted. And overall minority admissions, which were the crux of the Bakke case, are about the same as last year: 24 students out of 100, or 24 percent.
But the Bakke case and the controversy that surrounded it have damaged the school's efforts to recruit blacks.
"We've got a stigma to overcome," said Vicki Saito, the medical school's public information officer. "If I'm going to go to medical school, do I want to go to the Bakke school? That's a label we have now."
Most of the blacks who decided not to come to the Bakke school talked about it with William Downey, one of four blacks in Bakke's class. In the absence of a special minority recruiter, he and other minority students visit prospective students around California and tell them about U.C. Davis.
"A lot of them say, 'I don't want to go there, that place is crazy, I wouldn't be able to concentrate, they're down on blacks,' things like that," Downey said. "Bakke comes up most of the time."
One student agonized over leaving school for family reasons for one year because, when she returned, she would be in Bakke's class and did not want to be labeled that way. Other students have pointedly refused to take part in seminars involving Bakke or to shake hands with him.
"It's a very divided class, a marked group," said social psychiatry professor Dr. Donald A. Rockwell, who counsels U.C. Davis medical students. Several came to see him for help in dealing with their anger or confusion over the Bakke case, he said. "They didn't feel they could talk about it with their friends."
Bakke, 39, is in his second year of medical school here, and it has been an uneventful year, by all accounts, though he still refuses to talk to the press. u
Most students, and most teachers, have treated Bakke like any other student, who is reserved and somewhat older than usual. Outside the campus, the studies and reports proliferate as arguments continue over what it all meant.
The Supreme Court decision threw out Davis' "task force" program, which had reserved 16 spaces every year for minority students. When the divided court said that race could be a factor, but only one of many factors, in achieving diversity in enrollment, Davis set up a point system on which to rate applicants.
Based on the Harvard University system, it awards one to 10 points for grade average in college and one to 10 for Medical College Admissions Test scores, plus five for "disadvantage" status, plus five for "minority" status. Any student with 15 points is put in "Group A," from which the student body is ultimately chosen. Of 3,257 applicants for the 100 seats at Davis this year, 2,000 were in Group A.
The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League immediately charged that the point system still gives unconstitutional preference on the basis of race. But other group say it doesn't give enough help, and that the inclusiion of points for factors such as geographical distribution can negate any advantage for minorities.
"A significant minority of law school and medical schools have changed their admissions programs to be more conservative," said Lorenzo Morris, senior fellow at the Institute for the study of Educational Policies at Howard University. "One of the major Bakke impacts has also been to make people feel they won't be admitted.
The pool of minority applicants to medical school has been steady at around 3,300 for the last three years. Even though black college graduates are more numerous, there are more medical school slots available and more applications overall.