Saturday, October 19

Lydiette De Jesus: Claims of racial bias in admissions are ignorant, perpetuate racism

Leann Woo/Daily Bruin

Leann Woo/Daily Bruin

Sleep-deprived summer-session students were unpleasantly surprised by a poster last week which brazenly argued UCLA is racially biased because it admits more African-American students than it should. “UCLA violates Prop 209 to discriminate against White and Asian students in favor of Blacks,” it read.

The seemingly polite and factual language of the poster penetrated the reader’s mind with one message: some African-American students did not deserve to get admitted to UCLA.

Freedom of speech is an enormous privilege but sometimes it lets ignorant preconceptions fester in society. This poster does just that: It’s an extended, ignorant comment disguised by statistical “facts” and deceiving statistics.

If this was a poster on a wall that everyone ignored there would be no issue. However, there are a large number of people that accept these beliefs as truth, which damages the state of race relations in this country. These beliefs are incorrect and need to be more forcefully refuted.

For example, the current presidential campaign, which brings to attention racial issues such as undocumented immigrant deportations, Islamophobia and the Black Lives Matter movement, has incited some people to express their racist and ignorant comments loudly. Such preconceptions have no boundaries. They are present everywhere, including UCLA.

And these sentiments aren’t new. Two years ago, former UCLA economics professor Tim Groseclose, vocalized the alleged unfair admissions process of UCLA.

With the end of affirmative action in 1996, institutions such as UCLA are prohibited from giving preferential treatment based on race. The argument of affirmative action opponents is supported by the assumption that African-American students did not deserve to be admitted to UCLA but instead were illegally preferred because of their race.

The poster argues that even though affirmative action is illegal in California, UCLA has found a loophole and is accepting too many African Americans. It argues that 33 percent less African-American students would be accepted if admissions were fair.

However, this argument strongly depends on a sense of arrogance, entitlement and superiority. It implies that African-American students who were accepted to UCLA do not actually deserve an education there.

In reality, the numbers and percentages that the poster spits seem significant at first but according to the 2014-2015 school year undergraduate profile, 3 percent of the incoming freshman class was African-American, compared to 30 percent and 27 percent of incoming white and Asian students respectively. This was little change from the 2013-2014 school year profile where the incoming African-American student population was still 3 percent, while the White and Asian percentages fluctuated, being 28 percent and 30 percent respectively.

Using the data regarding both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 freshman profiles, the poster is arguing against the enrollment of approximately 57 African-American students, 0.0099 percent of the incoming freshman population at UCLA. Knowing this, the argument that 33 percent less African Americans should’ve been admitted sounds foolishly racist.

The diction of the poster was specific and telling. It finished by echoing the infamous slogan of the 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump: “Make UCLA great again.”

It seems that since what the author wants is for less black people to be admitted, then a “great UCLA” would be for less African-American students to be accepted and enrolled.

UCLA does not admit African-American students at the expense of other students, and saying so is not only ignorant but also racist. In a time where there are accusations, allegations and strong stereotypes made about various minority groups, it is especially important to pay close attention and be critical of what you hear, especially when it seems to target or isolate a large group of people.

Also, pretending that the admission of African-American students can be “too high” as if their admission couldn’t possibly be fair reveals that there are antagonistic racist ideologies that infiltrate higher institutions in the land of the (supposedly) free.

African-American students should not have to feel like they did not deserve their acceptance or that it was given to them for free. After all, there is no handout in the actual classroom. Additionally, let it be clear that being African-American does not in any way equate to being unintelligent. However, with constant media bias, imprudent posters and people who have accepted this immoral ideology, negative stereotypes of minorities can quickly form.

The poster then ends with, “White and Asian students matter” in all capitals, blatantly disregarding the previously mentioned Latino group. What’s more is that the author of the poster mocked the Black Lives Matter movement by comparing the issues they address, such as police brutality or systematic oppression, to receiving a rejection letter. Equating brutal deaths to college admissions is disrespectful to everyone whose lives have been lost and to those fighting to prevent more deaths.

The argument this poster was making is unnecessary from the social justice perspective. The heart of the argument doesn’t have society’s best interests in mind. If the success of 57 African-American students in gaining acceptance to UCLA bothers anyone, then they need to ask themselves why.

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Lydiette De Jesus was a columnist from 2016-2017.

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  • BlackNRight

    Thank you Lydiette. I am a recent graduate from UCLA and I am indeed Black. And trust me, I was hardly bombarded with other Black students in my class. The idea that there is too many Black students at UCLA is absolutely ridiculous. Ask any Black person on campus and we can tell you in an instant, we are only 3 percent of the UCLA population. That is hardly taking away any seats from Whites or Asians, especially since Asians have the highest percentage of all groups, including Whites. If they want to talk about a specific group taking over UCLA, it should be Asians not Blacks! But the truth is, every Asian deserves to walk on that campus too! We have all worked hard to be part of the UCLA family, none of us got in because we were just so darn cute UCLA had no choice but to let us in. (Well, maybe me, I am pretty darn cute….Nah, I am not that cute though.) If anyone has a problem with me being a UCLA graduate, they need to come to talk to me! I am now political scientist, so I am all about the debate!

  • Lolwut

    Let me start by saying that this writing of this piece is dreadful, even by Daily Bruin standards. Embarrassing, frankly. The article’s organization is almost incoherent, and junior high level mistakes like “less black people” should never make it to print in a University newspaper. Sheesh.

    More importantly, the author doesn’t actually offer any refutation of the “racist” poster’s assertion that UCLA’s admissions policies violate prop 209. It’s not an argument to say over and over that a viewpoint sounds racist and may reaffirm the existing prejudices of ignorant people.

    It’s also a huge leap of logic to equate a belief that UCLA’s admissions illegally favor African-American applicants with a belief that ALL black students are inherently underqualified and don’t “deserve” to be at UCLA.

    If anything, the practice of lowering the standards for specific ethnic groups is what will ultimately perpetuate a perception that they are less capable.

    57 students may not sound like a lot, but that’s 57 seats that were denied to applicants who were *potentially* more qualified. Far more students “deserve” admission to UCLA than the campus could ever hope to take in. An elite high-demand public institution like UCLA has an obligation to be strictly objective and fair in its selection process. Instead, the university administration has chosen to introduce bias into the admissions process to fit a narrative. That’s not OK.

    • Skeptic

      It takes a lot of courage to publish something especially tackling a controversial political topic such as this. I wish I had done so while a student. My challenge to the author would be to address the specific argument that UCLA is violating prop. 209- raw numbers showing a low number of black students doesn’t quite do that- and I believe there are some detailed statistical studies cutting the other way ( ex. that by Richard Sandler which perhaps could be challenged). This could be done empirically, legally, or both. Alternatively, perhaps argue (and I felt like this was implied but not stated) that Prop. 209 is just a bad law and should be repealed. Anyway great job!

      • Lolwut

        While the subject may be controversial, I would not consider the author’s position on the issue to be a risky one. Certainly, most of the UCLA community seems to agree that certain minority groups deserve a leg up in admissions simply by virtue of being “underrepresented” on the campus, even if it means compromising the integrity of the admissions process.

        Of course, the article doesn’t really justify, or even explain, that kind of stance. Instead, it’s basically a statement that “This shouldn’t be discussed because those evil racists might agree with it!”, fluffed with some self-righteous drivel. But then, the “social justice” mindset doesn’t seem to be about critical thinking so much as it’s about shouting down all opposition, ironically, in the name of equality and inclusion.

        Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with prop 209. Systemically it makes sense, even if the immediate result is seen as undesirable. The student population is by definition representative of the pool of qualified applicants. (this is why I dislike the term “underrepresented”.) Low enrollment numbers for certain groups aren’t the result of UCLA denying equal opportunity to those groups- it’s the long term result of economic differences, disparities in the quality of the public schools in different neighborhoods, and a variety of other factors that are out of the university’s reach. Reforming the public school system would be a more constructive way to start seeing college populations that are more representative of the general human population of Los Angeles or California or whatever.