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K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

UC Admissions: Same as the Old Boss?
A time of change or the same old thing?
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 11/5/03

On October 1, Robert C. Dynes took over as president of University of California, replacing Richard Atkinson, whose admissions policy presented the new UC president with his first problem. Californians should be watching how, or rather if, he solves it.

Atkinson, a politically correct administrator, launched a "comprehensive review" process of admissions that downplayed the SAT and gave weight to other factors not so easily quantified, such as hardship, leadership, and talent. Under comprehensive review, as an October report by UC Board of Regents Chairman John J. Moores revealed, hundreds of students got into Berkeley with SAT scores far below the average of 1,337. In fact, 381 students admitted to Berkeley last year ranged from an abysmal 600 - one gets 400 for simply taking the test - to a mediocre 1,000.

On the other hand, Berkeley rejected 3,200 applicants with scores of 1,400 or higher, out of a possible 1,600. President Dynes responded by showing a strong grasp of the obvious.

"This current issue taps into some very real feelings," he said at an October meeting in Sacramento. Indeed. A student scoring above 1,400 on the SAT might not feel too elated about being rejected by Berkeley, especially when they were passed over for someone with a score of 600. The new UC boss, whose background is in research rather than administration, knows something is wrong here.

"When we identify problems in our processes, we need to fix them," he said. On the other hand, Dynes said that SAT scores cannot be the sole measure of merit, and that "creativity, imagination, motivation, and just plain hard work have to count." Dynes said he supports comprehensive review and believes that the UC must reflect the diversity of California.

In current politically correct usage, diversity means that all institutions must reflect the ethnic breakdown of society. That can only be accomplished by ignoring personal differences, effort, and choice. It also means turning a blind eye to the law of California, mandated by the voters, which forbids preferences based on race and gender.

"We always need to be questioning how to do it [admissions] better," Dynes said. That is not a complicated issue.

Since the University of California is not a social club but a school of global reputation, the SAT should be restored to prominence in admissions. The UC can make admissions better by not discriminating against high-scoring students simply because of their background, particularly Asian, on the grounds that if admitted there would be "too many" of them and it just wouldn't look good. The UC can take affirmative action to help students but should do so on an economic, not ethnic, basis.

To his credit, Dynes agreed to a systemwide study of admissions. While a good idea, if such a study is to be credible it should be conducted by investigators outside of the UC system. They should be given full access and be familiar with past UC efforts to rig admissions. Above all, they should know the law and be willing to apply and enforce it.

That should also be true of the University of California's president. As the response to the Moores report confirmed, Californians don't want things the same as the old boss.

copyright 2003 Pacific Research Institute



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