Monday, September 8, 2008
University of California: Officials are perverting the law in a desperate attempt to increase black enrollment
Ever since California voters banned the use of racial preferences in government and education in 1996, the University of California has tried to engineer admissions systems that would replicate the effect of explicit racial quotas while appearing color-blind. To some observers, the legality of those efforts has long been suspect, but proof of wrongdoing has been hard to come by. Now a professor who sat on UCLA's committee on undergraduate admissions is charging that the school is deliberately taking race into account when deciding which students to admit. The university has refused to give him access to the data to test his claim, prompting the professor - political science faculty member Tim Groseclose - to resign from the school's admissions oversight committee in protest. UCLA's stonewalling is misguided and futile. Though the University of California has always jealously guarded information on its students' qualifications and its admissions procedures, enough details have come out over the last 10 years to suggest that race remains a factor in many parts of the system. More important, hard evidence is accumulating that enrolling students in a college for which they are academically unprepared does them a disservice. The story begins with the passage of Proposition 209, the 1996 anti-quota ballot initiative, which reduced the number of African Americans admitted to campuses across the state and sent UC officials into crisis mode. They began implementing a series of admissions changes intended to bring underqualified blacks and Latinos back to the system's most demanding campuses. They tried a preference scheme for low-income students, but it backfired when it boosted the number of Eastern European and Vietnamese admissions -- not the sort of "diversity" the university had in mind. Administrators cut the low-income preferences in half and went back to the drawing board. The subsequent admissions gambits, which continue to be rolled out to this day, are intended to increase "diversity" without running afoul of the law. Whether they have succeeded in substituting other factors for race in a permissible manner, or whether they are illegally seeking to pervert the requirements of the law, will probably be decided, in the end, in court.