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Letter from the Editor: UCLA law professor Richard Sander's report

By James Barragan

Oct. 29, 2012 11:29 p.m.

The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.

On Oct. 23 the Daily Bruin published a news article and an opinion column reporting that a study by a UCLA law professor, Richard Sander, had found that the university’s admissions policies could be violating Proposition 209. This law, passed in 1996, prohibits state institutions from taking race and other factors into consideration for hiring or admissions processes.

Since the publishing of those articles, many readers have expressed dissatisfaction with the Bruin’s coverage of Sander’s report.

It was not the Bruin’s intent to offend UCLA’s students of color, many of whom feel that our newspaper insinuated that they do not merit their place at this university.

We at the Bruin are not against bringing more students of color to this university. Our eight-member editorial board, which represents the voice of the entire paper, has said it is in favor of holistic admissions.

Our news article sought to cover a report that suggested certain sections of the university’s admission process might be in violation of California law. The job of a newspaper is to report on all issues that are relevant to its community. Ignoring this report, which indicates some very damning evidence, would have been irresponsible of us as journalists.

In the last week, the Bruin’s reporting on Sander’s findings has been called “shoddy journalism,” and our reporting has been dismissed as lackluster and biased. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope to shed light on some of the criticism we have received.

Much attention was drawn to the fact that Sander only used data from 2004 to 2006 and 2007 to 2009. Many readers have argued that Sander needs to look at the data from 2010 and 2011 to produce a more thorough report. We agree.

The data Sander cited in his report came from a public records request in which UCLA was required by law to hand over the data after the university refused to provide it willingly.

Many patterns found in Sander’s report, which has received substantial scrutiny, are also found in the Mare Report ““ a study of the admissions process commissioned by UCLA in 2008 to sociology professor Robert Mare, which the university has since endorsed.

While the Mare Report states that “The holistic ranking process for freshman admissions at UCLA appears to work much as intended,” it also notes that there were disparities in outcomes for applicants in the areas of final and supplemental review.

Mare told the Bruin he could not fully explain the criteria used to put applicants through supplemental review. Our reporters were not given an answer to this question either.

We urge, as we did in last week’s editorial, that ““ in full transparency ““ the university administration conduct a second independent review to find the answers that were not provided to Mare. Furthermore, we ask that this information be made public so that our community can formulate its own stance on the matter.

Another issue raised about our coverage was the language in which it was written, referring to “students on campus (who cannot be) account(ed) for” and “iniquities” in the data. We can see how these words may have been hurtful to individual students. What we have to keep in mind is that these professors were referring to data from their studies, and this is the language in which data is studied. Perhaps we should have taken better care to specify that these comments were made in reference to data.

The graphic that ran on the front page of the newspaper alongside the news story is one area where the Bruin could have done better. Because of a lack of explanation and context, it did not show the entire story. We acknowledge this missed opportunity and will strive not to make the same mistakes in the future.

We also acknowledge that the news story, and not the opinion column, should have contained the more thorough explanation of the supplemental review process. And perhaps given the sensitive nature of the topic at hand, we should have held off on publishing the opinion piece on the same day as the news story.

I’d finally like to address accusations of censorship that were brought against the Bruin. As a community newspaper, we urge our readers to use the opinion page as a forum for discussion.

However, there is a limited amount of space in our newspaper every day. All opinion pieces submitted to the Bruin are required to adhere to the same space limits. This policy is in place to ensure that all submissions and letters to the editor are treated equally. The Daily Bruin has never and will never be the agent of censorship.

We hope that the community engages in an educated discussion about this issue. I encourage people to bring any further concerns about our coverage to me.

Our story brought to light many issues and uncovered many others that we were not able to address in our limited space. We will publish more articles to discuss these issues. We will not leave our community with an incomplete report, and we urge you to work with us to tell every side of the story that remains to be told.

Barragan is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin. Email him at [email protected]. Send general comments to [email protected] or tweet us @DBOpinion.

Correction: Professor Richard Sander did not request admissions data for 2010 and 2011.

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