Regents Tackle Thorn Affirmative Action Issues

by Jesús Mena

The African-American student population would drop dramatically along with a significant reduction in the number of Chicano/Latinos if race and ethnicity were eliminated from the admissions process, according to a preliminary analysis delivered to the UC Board of Regents May 17.

The regents meeting, held at the UCSF Laurel Heights campus, was disrupted by students protesting potential changes in the admissions process.

The new analysis was part of an ongoing discussion begun in January when Regent Ward Connerly asked that the board consider eliminating racial and ethnic considerations from its admissions policies.

Specifically, the preliminary analysis projects that if race and ethnicity were eliminated as admissions selection criteria, the number of African-American students would decrease between 40 and 50 percent and Chicano/Latinos would drop by 5 to 15 percent. Asian-American students would rise 15 to 25 percent and white students would experience a modest increase of about 5 percent.

If the admissions process used a combination of academic scores and socio-economic factors without considering race and ethnicity, the number of lower income students requiring "full need" financial aid would increase by 10 to 30 percent.

The study also projects that the new student body probably would have a lower mean SAT and grade point average.

The study concludes that while socio-economic factors may be used to assure some diversity, these factors can not be relied upon solely to replace race and ethnicity as admissions criteria.

The report called for further analysis.

The regents' meeting attracted about 200 students from several UC campuses who came to speak on potential changes in admissions policies.

Students expressed frustration that only a fraction of those who came could be accommodated in the small auditorium.

About 20 speakers, mostly students, participated in the public commentary session, with most opposing efforts to change the UC admission process.

When Regent Chair Howard H. Leach announced that the public commentary period had ended, students disrupted the session, demanding more time to speak.

Leach temporarily suspended the meeting until order was restored.

When the session resumed, Regent David Flinn called for a rational exchange of opinions despite the obviously emotional nature of the topic.

The scheduled discussion then proceeded with Dennis Galligani, UC vice president for student academic services, giving an overview of the UC undergraduate admissions policies.

UCLA Vice Chancellor Winston C. Doby and Professor Philip Curtis detailed the implementation of those policies on their campus.

The discussion on the graduate admissions policies was led by Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, UC vice chancellor of the graduate division.

Dean Herma Hill Kay explained how the process works at Boalt Hall.

Kay said that racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession is vital to society as a whole.

"The need to diversify the legal profession is not a vague liberal ideal: it is an essential component of the administration of justice," she said.

"This is especially true in California where lawyers need to learn how to work effectively across racial and cultural lines, to help resolve social conflict and to facilitate effective solutions to difficult problems."

The regents are scheduled to have a further discussion on the affirmative action issue at their June meeting.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
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