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UC Faculty Approve Change in Admissions

UC Faculty Approve Change in Admissions
Change would affect where students would matriculate

University of California faculty have endorsed a change in the admissions policy that would look at students’ life achievements as well as their academic records.
The systemwide assembly of the Academic Senate met late last month at UCLA and voted 42-0 in favor of the new approach, known as “comprehensive review.” There were three abstentions.
The vote means the issue now goes to the university’s governing board of regents. The board is expected to vote later this month at its regular meeting in San Francisco.
The change would not affect who gets into UC’s nine campuses. That is determined by eligibility, which depends on meeting minimum grade and test score totals or on graduating in the top 4 percent of one’s high school class. UC has a policy of finding a spot somewhere in the system for all eligible students. Where comprehensive review comes in is in deciding which student goes where, in particular, which students go to the highly competitive campuses such as Berkeley and UCLA.
Campuses are required to take at least 50 percent of their students based on academic factors alone. The remainder can be considered on grades plus four supplemental factors, which include such things as overcoming poverty or a difficult family situation. Comprehensive review would allow campuses to view all applicants on academic and supplemental factors.
Regents set the 50 percent academics alone requirement in 1995, the same time they banned considering race or gender in admissions. In May, they repealed that ban (see Black Issues, June 7.) The vote didn’t restore affirmative action, banned by a state law passed in 1996. However, it did open the door to reconsidering the 50 percent requirement.
Regents discussing the proposed shift to comprehensive review at their October meeting were wary of the change, saying they need assurance UC won’t lose its academic edge.
“I accept the fact that we want well-rounded students, but we’re not the Rotary Club,” says Regent Ward Connerly. “We’re trying to select scholars.”
Some have criticized comprehensive review as a backdoor attempt to reintroduce race-conscious admissions. After race-blind admissions took effect in 1998, enrollment of Blacks and Hispanics dropped sharply. The numbers have since rebounded to affirmative action levels systemwide, but not at flagship Berkeley.
Proponents counter that comprehensive review doesn’t look at race. Comprehensive review is the latest in a series of changes or proposed changes regarding admissions to UC. In 1999, regents guaranteed eligibility to students who finished in the top 4 percent of their class, based on UC-required courses. This year, they approved expanding that guarantee to the top 12.5 percent, provided that students who fell in the latter 8.5 percent went to community college for the first two years. That initiative stalled last month for lack of state funds.  

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