Friday, June 01, 2007

UCLA to Evade State Ban on Racial Preferences

This week's U.S. News and World Report has a solid article on UCLA's initiative to implement racial preferences in undergraduate admissions. University officials are working to make up for declining numbers of black students at the school, an effect of California's ban on affirmative action by voter-approved initiative in 1996. Here's a key section of the article:

With record numbers of students applying to colleges nationwide, admission is more competitive than ever, and the formula for who gets in is more complex. UCLA has one more variable to consider. Or not. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, a referendum to end affirmative action in public education, hiring, and state contracting. (Similar initiatives already have passed in four other states and could be on the 2008 ballot in several more.) Without access to the race-specific considerations of affirmative action, UCLA has had to rework its admissions and recruiting processes or face enrollment numbers for black students like those from last fall.

This year, Montero and other UCLA officials are breathing a bit easier. The number of black students who were admitted to the UCLA freshman class for this fall jumped from 249 in 2006 to 392, the school recently announced, and the number who plan to enroll roughly doubled to 203, or 4.5 percent.

Achieving that increase required an unprecedented effort. UCLA created an African American Student Enrollment Task Force that conducted phone-a-thons to reach prospective students in California. The school's Black Alumni Association gathered donations to fly in and host 50 black students, who had been admitted to UCLA but had not yet enrolled, for a whirlwind weekend of campus activities. Private organizations raised more than $1.75 million, enough to give every black student who enrolled for this fall at least a $1,000 grant.

Finally, the school implemented a new admissions process, called holistic review, in which each application is read in its entirety by one person, rather than having sections reviewed by different people. This change complemented the university's six-year-old comprehensive review policy that considers test scores and grade-point averages in light of students' life experiences and special circumstances.
The key point from the quote -- for our purposes here -- is the mention of "holistic review," which is now the non-quantitative racial preferences instrument of choice for the affirmative action lobby. The U.S. News article is balanced, though, and has a nice review of the background to affirmative action. The piece even closes by noting what it's really going to take to increase minority enrollment at the nation's elite universities:
Overall, at schools where affirmative action admissions have ended, a combination of enrollment strategies will most likely take their place. But experts say the emphasis should be on closing the "achievement gap"— differences in things such as SAT scores—between minority students and their white counterparts in the primary grades. "A hope was that the end of affirmative action would lead to increased attention and action at the K-12 level," said Anthony Lising Antonio of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research. "But we haven't seen that."
The key question is: How can we improve the racial achievement gap in learning hindering the educational advancement of black students? The "enrollment strategies" mentioned in the conclusion refer to all of the massive outreach efforts schools have undertaken to increase minority enrollment (and as noted, read the full article for more details on what types of minority recruitment measures universities are taking). But the efforts at improving the racial learning gap are where real gains will be made.

I've posted a number of times on affirmative action (for a couple of entries, see
here and here).

in my farewell post (from my short-lived blogging retirement), I mentioned Heather MacDonald's recent article on UC's decade-long campaign to evade the state's ban on affirmative action in admissions practices. MacDonald's essay, "Elites to Anti-Affirmative-Action Voters: Drop Dead," is a powerful indictment of the entire racial preferences establishment at the University of California. The article's also an eye-opener in its close detailing of the scurrilous ends to which the UC system has gone in its efforts to increase minority enrollment. The article has a boatload of excellent data and analysis, so let me just quote MacDonald's introduction for starters:
In 1996, Californians voted to ban race and gender preferences in government and education. Ten years later, the chancellor of the state-funded University of California at Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, announced a new Vice Chancellorship for Equity and Inclusion, charged with making Berkeley more “inclusive” and “less hostile” to “underrepresented minority . . . groups.” This move is just the latest expression of the University of California’s unrelenting resistance to the 1996 voter initiative, in every way possible short of patent violation. Stasi apparatchiks disappeared more meekly after the Soviet Empire’s collapse than California’s race commissars have retreated after voters tried to oust their preference regime.
Read the whole thing. UCLA is moving to holistic admissions, as the U.S. News story indicates. While the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed holistic methods in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court has never struck down California's race preferences ban. UC officials are trying to get around it any way they can. In a photograph accompanying the hard-copy U.S. News article, some protesting students are pictured with t-shirts asking: "Got Black Students?" The same photo shows militants calling for a "day of reckoning." My own experience as a student and an instructor leads me to believe that students -- seeking to attend an elite university -- would be better off hitting the books in the library than hanging out on a university quad denouncing Ward Connerly.

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