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The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools is evaluating charges of illegal race-based discrimination in 2007 and 2008 that were alleged by Professor Richard Sander first in an interview with New York Times columnist David Leonhardt. These charges were later fully released by Professor Sander in a confidential draft report dated Oct. 18, 2012 that was obtained by the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools by way of a link published in the Daily Bruin.
Our evaluation of this report suggests he has narrowly interpreted a poorly described analysis of admissions pool data for a period preceding and two academic years following implementation of holistic review at UCLA.
Briefly, the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools changed its comprehensive review process in 2006 to holistically evaluate freshmen applicants to UCLA.
Holistic review assigns a score, one to five, to each applicant, and admissions decisions are substantially influenced by this score. In 2008, an independent analysis of admissions data was commissioned by the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools and the report was completed and presented to the faculty members and the community in winter 2012 by UCLA Professor Robert Mare, distinguished professor of sociology.
The Mare Report showed that strong grades and standardized test scores are the strongest predictors for admission to UCLA. The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools strongly supports holistic review and believes the admissions review process implements the core values set out by the faculty.
In his report, Professor Sander provides no explanation of his methods, few explanations for his findings and no discussion of the limitations of his analyses. Importantly, he fails to consider that his findings may be explained by factors beyond illegal discrimination.
Specifically, Professor Sander’s analyses implicitly assume that the holistic score captures all academic and nonacademic factors that affect a student’s chances of admission to UCLA. However, this assumption is incorrect. The holistic score attempts to incorporate opportunities and challenges in assigning the score.
While this approach may suffice for the vast majority of applicants, it cannot capture the challenges and lack of opportunity faced by highly disadvantaged applicants.
Consequently, holistic review at UCLA also provides that a small proportion of students may be referred for further evaluation called supplemental review. Referral to supplemental review is based on a range of criteria including such things as special talents, extraordinary achievement or unusual circumstances.
In particular, supplemental review is the mechanism through which applicants who show evidence of academic achievement in spite of extraordinary or compound disadvantage – that is, who have excelled in the face of extremely difficult circumstances and have submitted comprehensively impressive applications – can be identified.
Extraordinary and compounded disadvantages correlate with low-performing schools where there are higher proportions of underrepresented students, and Professor Sander’s analyses do not evaluate the influence of supplemental review on the probability of admissions. His conclusion that there are racial preferences in UCLA admissions is unwarranted.
The UCLA applicant pool is large and competitive, and members of each freshman class are very talented. Professor Sander’s report suggests that some students admitted under holistic review are undeserving.
The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools believes that holistic review is achieving the goal of identifying unique individuals with intellectual curiosity, tenacity and commitment to community service in each class of admitted students.
The committee strongly asserts that all students admitted to the university are deserving, welcome members of our campus community.
Dorothy Wiley is the chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools and a professor in the UCLA School of Nursing. Robert Gurval is the vice chair of the committee and a professor of classics. Robijn Bruinsma is a member of the committee and a professor of physics and astronomy. Robert Cooper is a member of the committee and a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Jose Escarce is a member of the committee and a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Adriana Galvan is a member of the committee and a professor of psychology. Adrienne Lavine is a member of the committee and a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. Kelly Lytle-Hernandez is a member of the committee and a professor of history.
Correction and clarification: The confidential draft report by Professor Richard Sander is dated Oct. 18, 2012. Sander looked at admissions pool data for a period preceding and two academic years following implementation of holistic review.