Faculty to revamp admissions process in post SP-1 era

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs



Regent Ward Connerly discusses his vote to rescind SP-1 and SP-2.
Noah Berger photo

07 June 2001 | In the wake of the UC Board of Regents’ vote to rescind SP-1, the UC Academic Senate is taking a fresh look at the two-tier admissions process that requires at least 50 percent of undergraduate applicants to be admitted on academic criteria alone.

The regents voted unanimously May 16 to rescind SP-1 and SP-2 — its six-year-old policies banning consideration of race and sex in admissions, hiring and contracting — and reaffirmed the university’s commitment to a diverse student body.

In the process, said Math Chair Calvin Moore, head of the Berkeley Academic Senate committee responsible for setting admissions criteria, the regents left in place the two-tier structure. “But they invited the Academic Senate to come back with a proposal (for) modifying, changing or eliminating” the process, he said.

The board charged the universitywide Academic Senate with developing new admissions criteria and recommitted the university to outreach programs designed to help prepare K-12 students for UC admission. Along with UC President Richard Atkinson, it set a tight deadline for putting new admissions guidelines in place.

At the same time, the regents acknowledged that the university is governed by state law — enacted as a result of Proposition 209 — requiring it to disregard race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in admissions, hiring and contracting.

The universitywide Academic Senate has begun work on the task of developing recommendations for revised admissions criteria.

According to Professor Michael Cowan, chair of the Senate’s Academic Council, the faculty must decide how to weigh academic and motivational factors and whether to retain the SAT I or another quantitative measure of college preparedness.

The Berkeley Academic Senate, which has been debating such questions for some time, recently requested that the campus be allowed to adopt a unitary process, giving all freshman applications a single score that combines academic criteria with qualities such as determination, maturity and how the student might use his or her education. It wanted the matter to go before the regents in July.

The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, a committee of the universitywide Academic Senate, “found it a cogent and appropriate policy for Berkeley,” Moore noted, but it “didn’t want to proceed in the time frame we had proposed. Rather they want a universitywide framework into which it would fit.”

“The task is to build a universitywide framework over the next few months,” said Moore. “I am confident that we will be able to implement the unitary policy we have proposed (in time) for the next admissions cycle.”

Faculty recommendations will go to the regents for approval this fall, and will be implemented for the freshman class entering in fall 2002.

The regents’ action on SP-1 and SP-2 came in a session full of emotion and surprises — including a visit by nine elected state officials, who came to emphasize support for a “clear and unambiguous” repeal of the anti-affirmative action measures. The delegation included Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, State Senator Gloria Romero, and Assembly members Dion Aroner, Wilma Chan, Jackie Goldberg, Jerome Horton and Marco Firebaugh, chairman-elect of the Legislature’s Latino Caucus.

Regents and legislators expressed the hope that the action would send a clear message that the university is welcoming to all and would remove the board and UC from the center of public controversy.

”We are spending enough energy on this thing that we could light the city of L.A. for weeks,” said Regent Ward Connerly, author of SP-1 and SP-2, in explaining his decision to support the resolution.

Chancellor Berdahl said the regents’ action “reaffirms in a very positive way our commitment to access. It is an important symbolic statement of our values, that excellence and opportunity continue to be fundamental values.”

Pro-affirmative action student activists inside and outside the UC San Francisco auditorium — surprised to learn that the final resolution “rescinded” rather than “replaced” or “superseded” SP-1 and SP-2 — cheered the regents’ action and vowed to continue their efforts.

The repeal of SP-2, which covers hiring and contracting, “will not significantly change policies and procedures,” but may well affect “the perception of UC Berkeley as an employer by minority communities,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Sandra Haire.


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