University of Broken Promise

Interesting things going on at the University of California—one of the nations premier university systems.

1. According to the San Diego Union Tribune a University of California (UC) study shows that, “Asian-American students are less likely to be admitted into the University of California than students from other racial groups with comparable academic qualifications….” The effect is fairly small, probably because California outlawed racially discriminatory admission practices a few years ago.

According to The California Aggie :

The task force was established after Board of Regents Chair John Moores released a report highly critical of comprehensive review, the admissions policy used by the university since Proposition 209 ended the use of affirmative action in the state.
Without going into much detail, Associate Vice President for Student Academic Affairs Dennis Galligani said in a conference call with reporters on Monday that the findings showed that the university is in compliance with Prop. 209. But Galligani also said the group found that the university was having trouble creating a student body that was as ethnically diverse as the state population.
Figures released by the study group showed that the UC Davis campus admitted slightly fewer Asian American applicants than statistically predicted. The campus admitted slightly more African American, Latino and Caucasian applicants than predicted. However, Galligani noted that the prediction models were not perfect, and some of the differences could be due to mathematical error.

I find it amusing that Galligani wants to hang his hat on a theoretical mathematical error, as if it weren’t a possibility in any statistical analysis.

The strange thing about this discussion is that it is an issue at all. So long as Asian-Americans do better academically than other groups, any attempt to create a student body as ethnically diverse as the state population will absolutely have to discriminate against them. It is a mathematical necessity. It is the dark side of affirmative action. It isn’t justice that Asian-Americans have to pay for the fact that they do better. But this is what happens when you count people’s group affiliations over their individual accomplishments.

2. The UC system has always promised UC access to the top 12.5% of California high school students, and the top 4% of any particular high school. This admission policy was a part of the UC mission to educate the brightest California students. You were not guaranteed to get into the UC campus of your choice, but if you fit the qualifications, a place was made for you somewhere in the system.

For the first time in UC history, this promise is likely to be broken. The Daily Bruin reports on this. The stated reason for the denial of admissions is Schwarzenegger’s proposal “to reduce freshman enrollment by 10 percent in 2004-2005.” The UC system is diverting eligible students to the Junior College (JC) system for two years, and they claim they will guarantee admission to those who finish in the JC system. I don't understand where the spots will come from to make room for them in two years, but perhaps I'm missing someting. Having personally experienced both a full UC education and some JC classes, I can tell you that many JC classes are not comparable to UC classes. I’m not saying they are bad. But I am saying that they are not typically quite as good.

Interestingly enough there is a letter from a professor to the California Aggie suggesting that there is a way to resolve this problem. (Scroll down to the letter entitled There is a solution to enrollment problems .

Between 14 and 18 percent of currently enrolled students are on the academic probation, disqualification and dismissal list. The UC administration, acting as the delegated agent of the Academic Senate on this matter, refuses to dismiss students that have been on the dismissal list for several quarters. Furthermore, the same administration refuses to implement the minimum progress regulation that requires every full-time student to carry a load of at least 13 (or 12 according to different campuses) units per quarter, averaged over three quarters.

Dismiss those who aren’t doing well, and allow other qualified students to enter and take their places.
This proposal won’t happen, of course. The reason is related to creating a student body that is as ethnically diverse as the state population.
Someday we are going to have to fix the problem of awful inner-city elementary and high-school education. Trying to fix it at the university level is attacking the problem far too late.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at March 10, 2004 3:21 AM