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The changing face of UCLA diversity

By Bridget Shackelford

Sept. 23, 2006 9:00 p.m.

In the 1970s, white students made up nearly 75 percent of the
student body at UCLA, the numbers of black and Hispanic students
were on the rise, and Asian American students were less than 10
percent of each class.

Now, white students no longer make up the majority of the
population, Asian Americans represent the largest group, and
criticism has been focused around the rapid decline of
underrepresented minority admits.

The ethnic makeup of University of California students as a
whole underwent substantial changes as a result of the changing
demographics of the state, the increasingly strict admissions
criteria, and the use and then abolishment of affirmative

In 1973, white students made up 72.3 percent of the
undergraduate student body. By the fall of 1998, the number had
dropped to 39.2 percent.

As a result of the continuing measures in place to give
underrepresented minorities more of a voice in the United States,
the racial demographics at UCLA began to change.

Affirmative action policies were first implemented in the U.S.
during the 1960s and 1970s. The idea behind affirmative action was
that underrepresented minorities should be given a certain number
of spots in public institutions and employment agencies.

This was seen by advocates of the policy as a way for society to
give back to the minorities who had been oppressed in the United

During the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, black enrollment
hovered around 4 percent to 6 percent of the student body. During
that time, American Indian and Latino students represented an
increasingly large percentage of the student population.

It was in the 1980s, however, that UCLA underwent the most
change in terms of the ethnic makeup of the student population.

During that decade, underrepresented minority students reached
high numbers at UCLA and other races began to appear at the school
in larger numbers as UCLA became more selective, said Thomas Lifka,
assistant vice chancellor for student services.

“Beginning in the early ’80s we became increasingly
competitive,” Lifka said,

The UC’s admissions policy changed greatly in November
1996 when California voters passed Proposition 209, which
prohibited the state from taking race, gender and ethnicity into
account for admissions in public universities and public

Lifka said the passage of Proposition 209 ““ which affected
the incoming class of 1998 ““ has resulted in the low numbers
of minority students currently enrolled at UCLA, specifically black

“It is the primary reason why we have fewer African
American students at UCLA as freshmen, as opposed to previous
years,” Lifka said.

Ricardo Vazquez, a UC spokesman, said the number of
underrepresented minority students being admitted to the UC system
has actually increased since affirmative action was abolished.

But those numbers are not an accurate reflection of the number
of underrepresented minorities in California, and the experience at
UCLA has been quite the opposite, Vazquez said.

While systemwide the numbers of underrepresented minorities at
the UC may have increased since 1996, the number of
underrepresented minorities at UCLA decreased in that time.

The decrease in enrollment of black students has been the major
focus of media attention in recent years, but there have been other
major changes in the student body as well.

Asian Americans now make up the largest group of students at

“Asian Americans are fulfilling UC admission requirements
by a far greater rate than any other ethnic group,” Vazquez
said. “For the first time, Asians are the largest

This is partially due to the fact that more Asian American
students are applying to the UC system than any other ethnic group,
he said.

Since Proposition 209 passed, UCLA has been using a system of
comprehensive review to make its admission decisions. The system is
based on three separate parts ““ academic review, personal
achievements and life challenges.

The UCLA admissions Web site states that no numeric factor is
given to each section, but the main focus of admission is currently
on academic achievements.

“We adopted comprehensive review and asked, have the
applicant’s parents been to college? What is the
family’s income? Has the student taken honors courses? UCLA
decided not to implement comprehensive review as much as
Berkeley,” said Ward Connerly, an author of Proposition 209
and a former UC Regent. “As a consequence of that there are
fewer black students being admitted to UCLA.”

UCLA has received recent media attention because of its
announcement that it may be taking a more holistic approach to
admissions, starting as soon as this fall. This approach is similar
to the admissions process at UC Berkeley, which enrolls more
minority students than UCLA.

Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams said although UCLA will work to
improve diversity in the future, the popularity of the school will
naturally make it harder for students to gain admission.

“UCLA receives the most numbers of applicants in the
nation,” Abrams said. “Berkeley receives about 5,000
under our number of applicants. Let’s say you’ve got a
4.2 (GPA) and a 1300 (SAT score) and another student has got a 4.5
and a 1500. Both are good students, but both have also raised the
bar of applicants higher and higher. So we now have to address how
these relative students may compare in other areas.”

With reports from Anthony Pesce and Saba Riazati, Bruin
senior staff.

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Bridget Shackelford
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