New American Media
SAN FRANCISCO- Last week, more than 50 educators and community leaders came together for a panel discussion at the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco to criticize the new University of California admissions policy. Meant to promote diversity, panelists say, it could backfire instead, and decrease freshmen Asian American student enrollment starting in 2012, while increasing UC’s white student population. The admissions rate for African American and Latino students will edge up only slightly, if at all.
The panel discussion was sponsored by Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education, a national organization that advocates for a more prominent Asian Pacific American position in the education field.
Panelists described the new policy as discriminatory and something that was done “behind closed doors.” They said it caused anger in the Asian American community and public distrust in the system.
UC Regents claim the new admissions policy, adopted on Feb. 4, would promote diversity on campuses. But under the new policy, the Asian admissions rate is projected to drop from 36 percent to as low as 29 percent. For other groups the admissions rate will increase: Caucasians from 34 percent to as high as 44 percent, African Americans from 4 to 5 percent and Latinos from 19 percent to as high as 22 percent. Moreover, fewer students overall will receive an admission guarantee (10 percent of high school graduates statewide vs. 12.5 percent now.) under the policy,
Former UC Associate President Patrick Hayashi explained that the Asian Pacific Islander community was not overreacting. UC’s own research on the policy change indicates white students would be the big winner while API students would suffer the most, he said, with African American and Latino students gaining marginal increases. Hayashi asked UC to delay the implementation of the new policy and allow further discussion or modifications.
Asian students will be impacted by two major changes in the admissions policy: the elimination of two SAT subject tests as a UC admissions requirement and the widening of the pool of students who are guaranteed admission based on their rank in their own high school class ( from 4 percent to 9 percent).
Hayashi commented that canceling the SAT II subject test is going backwards in education reform, because the subject test was designed to lessen the pressures and negative impacts on low-income, immigrant and underrepresented communities. Professor Emeritus Ling-chi Wang of UC Berkeley also agreed that the subject test is a better way to appraise capable students and compare students from different high schools.
Korean American college student Ju Hong who volunteered and participated at the discussion described the new changes as unfair. Hong, who came to the United States at 12, said “Immigrant and low income students usually don’t have the financial advantages to take extra courses to perform well in the reasoning tests. They look at the subject tests as their chance to show their real academic ability.”
UC President Mark Yudof, on the other hand, explained in a letter aimed at critics of the policy that although the subject examinations will no longer be required, students are still encouraged to take the tests and submit their scores, just as AP exam scores are submitted now.
However, what angers the Asian community the most was how UC poorly publicized the new proposal. There was a lack of public attention before it was adopted.
Henry Der, former member of the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC), first learned about it when Yudof spoke of the proposal before CPEC in December 2008, without putting it on CPEC’s agenda. “He just made some brief comments. It was difficult for CPEC commissioners to question him in any meaningful manner,” Der said. In addition, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office did not release a report on the policy change until January.
On Feb. 3, one day before the new admissions policy was adopted, 11 Asian American state legislators signed a letter, asking UC Board of Regents Chairman Richard Blum to hold back the vote to no avail.
Nina Robinson, UC's director of policy and external affairs for student affairs, denied that there wasn’t enough information for the public to learn about the process. She said the proposal had gone through two full rounds of reviews in the Academic Senate and voted on by faculty. “ We have answered every question and concern that came to our office,” she said. Robinson thought that people did not react because they either thought the proposal would not go through or they were just unaware of it.
More information on current UC’s Comprehensive Review can be found at http://www.ucop.edu/ucal/admissions/general_info/uc_reviews/freshman_app.html.