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UCLA must investigate, clarify admissions process

The issue
Professor Richard Sander's recently released study suggests that UCLA Admissions is taking race into account when considering applicants, a violation of Proposition 209.

Our stance
UCLA needs to look into this potentially illegal process to assure that the admissions process stays within the bounds of the law. In addition, it needs to clarify the grounds for supplemental review of applicants.

By Editorial Board

Oct. 24, 2012 11:34 p.m.

A report suggesting that UCLA admissions officers are violating state law by considering race when evaluating applications has sparked heated and emotional debate on campus.

Affirmative action is a divisive issue, and one that is deeply personal for many students, faculty and staff. But what is at stake in the recently published study is not whether affirmative action is right or wrong.

What matters is that UCLA may be breaking the law.

UCLA’s disappointing response to the report was simply to brush off its findings, and to avoid talking about the loopholes in admissions that have been identified.

Because the legality of UCLA’s actions has come under question, we urge the university to immediately investigate the claims made about its admissions process, and then make public the findings of the investigation.

California’s Proposition 209, passed by voters in 1996, says that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of … public education.”

About a decade after Prop. 209 passed, UCLA Admissions adopted a holistic scoring process for all applicants, taking into account each piece of their application, including their essay, socioeconomic factors and GPA.

The report from Professor Richard Sander, who studies affirmative action, shows race-based discrepancies in admissions rates.

In comparison with white and Asian students, more black and Hispanic students with mid-range holistic scores are being accepted to the university, according to the report.

UCLA sociology Professor Robert Mare, who conducted a separate review of the holistic admissions process, acknowledged in an interview with a Daily Bruin reporter that he found discrepancies similar to those in Sander’s study.

But UCLA, which commissioned Mare’s report, still concluded that the report showed the holistic admissions system was effective and race-neutral.

Evidence in two reports indicating that UCLA Admissions is not abiding by the law should be taken seriously.

This board does believe that holistic admissions, done diligently and with integrity, is the most effective way to review applicants to UCLA under Prop. 209.

We are concerned, however, about data showing that this system may have been compromised.

All we ask from UCLA right now is that the university share these concerns and launch an independent, public review of its admission policies.

Though UCLA already commissioned the report from Mare, his findings were inconclusive, meriting another review.

All students, regardless of race, want to feel as though they belong at UCLA and merited their place here.

Public disclosure from the university about its admissions policies is the first step toward achieving this end.

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