About 200 students and professors, many dressed in black clothing, gathered outside of Kerckhoff Hall Monday afternoon to protest recent claims that race may factor into UCLA Undergraduate Admissions decisions.
Amid chants of “This is what community looks like!” and “We’re fired up!”, representatives from various student organizations on campus spoke to the crowd.
Multiple student groups ““ including the Afrikan Student Union, the Mixed Student Union, the Queer Alliance and the Asian Pacific Coalition ““ started organizing the protest called “A Day Without an Educated Student of Color,” last week in response to a recently released report by UCLA law professor Richard Sander. The report states that UCLA Admissions takes race into account by admitting students on criteria that cannot be explained by the holistic admissions process that already takes non-academic attributes, such as socioeconomic factors into account.
Factoring race into admissions would violate Proposition 209, a 1996 California law that prohibits state institutions from looking at race during the admissions or hiring process.
The Daily Bruin published an article, opinion column and staff editorial last week on the report, which many of the protesters on Monday said was offensive.
Some participants, like third-year applied mathematics student Nico Chavez, dressed in black to show solidarity for racial equality.
“It is wonderful to see that students are not afraid to rise up against controversy when youth are so often disenchanted with politics and are unable to find passion or voice,” Chavez said.
Throughout the rally, speakers expressed support for the holistic admissions process, which UCLA has used since 2006.
UCLA Admissions officials have said holistic review does not take race into account during the application review process.
Student speakers addressed a variety of issues, such as minorities coming together in solidarity and what they characterized as a lack of diversity on campus.
Speakers said one explanation for Sander’s findings may be that minority students face socioeconomic disadvantages, which could give them an edge over other applicants during the supplemental review process.
Yakira Delgadillo, a third-year Spanish student who attended the rally, said she came out because her viewpoint as a minority on campus had been absent in both the study and the published articles.
“What happened to our opinion, our voice?” Delgadillo asked. “We came out here to have our voice heard.”
Leaders of the rally also read an official statement from Chancellor Gene Block that expressed his support for campus diversity and the holistic admissions process.
“The wide-ranging experiences of the student body are essential to the intellectual vitality on campus,” Block’s statement reads. “You have earned your place at UCLA.”
While the speaker lineup did not allow time for him to speak, Sander showed up to defend his study.
“The rally seems focused on the emotion from the Daily Bruin article, not the report,” he said. “Show me one sentence (in the report) … that is not accurate.”
Many students saw the rally as more than a reaction to the law professor’s study.
David Melendez, a third-year theater student, said he hoped it would draw attention to what he saw as a nationwide problem of disproportionate ratios of minorities (relative to national demographics) being accepted into universities.
Third-year Asian American studies student Gabriel Sanchez, who spoke at the rally, said he appreciated the strong turnout but wished more students had come.
“Knowing the size of UCLA, there could always be more students (at the rally),” he said.
Students also met at a forum later in the day to discuss the report and the admissions process with administrators and admissions officials.
About 80 students came to the meeting to discuss holistic admissions and options that are available for students who feel attacked or marginalized by the report.
“Each of you are scholars in your own right,” Youlanda Copeland-Morgan, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, said at the event. “You’ve earned the right to be here, and we believe you can all be successful here.”
Contributing reports by Samantha Focht and Lawrence Han, Bruin contributors, and Erin Donnelly and Jillian Beck, Bruin senior staff.