Bruin Alumni Association
Racial Games: UCLA’s Biased Admissions Process

Chapter 1 - A Brave New World

Chapter 2 - A Pale Imitiation

Chapter 3 - Things Fall Apart

Chapter 4 - Are You a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5?

Chapter 5 - Speaking Out

Racial Games: UCLA’s Biased Admissions Process

By Andrew Jones

Chapter 1
A Brave New World

    The conservative writer and activist David Horowitz has argued that the Left believes with religious fervor that it can create a world with no hunger, cruelty, or unfairness.  What every other religion believes only possibly in the Kingdom of Heaven, the Left plans to make reality in the here and now – by any means necessary.

    Racially-focused admissions to our most prestigious colleges and universities have been a major part of this decades-long struggle to realize this radical conception of social justice and equality of outcome.  The end of affirmative action in California – firmly ensconced in the state Constitution with the overwhelming passage of Proposition 209 – was a major blow against this project and the radicals’ vision for a new world.

    Delayed by the inevitable round of court battles, it was not until the incoming class of 1998 that race-neutral UC admissions were achieved.  Finally accepting their legal defeat, the race lobby turned its attention to the court of public opinion, making dire predictions of demographic disaster.  Proposition 209 would spell ruin for minority students, they predicted; the voters would live to regret their monstrous decision

    Predictable howls of protest from radical students and faculty greeted the release of statistics about the incoming Class of 1998 – from Hispanic student leaders, “outrage,” while black student leaders were “appalled.”[i]  And why not?  The evidence was all there, they declared.  Just look at the large drops in minority admissions to the elite campuses of Berkeley and UCLA.

    Except that most of the minority applicants hadn’t actually been denied admission altogether.  Instead, they had been directed to less rigorous UC campuses that better matched their lower qualifications.  For the race preferences lobby, however, this act of academic mercy was unacceptable.  In response, they launched a two-part plan that had been in development since the UC Regents’ 1995 elimination of affirmative action in admissions, hiring and contracting.

    The first component of the plan, as described in Diversity@UCLA: By Any Means Necessary, was the burgeoning campaign for diversity.  Renaming affirmative action “diversity” was a cynical, devious, but ultimately well-chosen tactic.  The general public perceives diversity as a noble, laudable goal – one in which a wide variety of participant backgrounds strengthens the collective experience of the group in question.  The public also mistakenly believes that diversity is about ensuring equal access – to college admissions, to hiring, to public programs.  The irony of the entire diversity hoax is that in philosophy and practice, the goal is not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome.  Therein lies the crucial difference between radical diversity as practiced at UCLA, and the mainstream diversity of the public imagination.

    At the same time that diversity was being cemented as a public policy goal, the means of achieving the objective - a new admissions policy - was first publicly introduced.  This new policy, called “comprehensive review,” would, Californians were told, avoid the pitfalls of only looking at narrow measures of achievement like GPA and SAT scores.  Instead, UCLA admissions would look at the whole person, picking up on more subtle, unspecified, forms of collegiate qualification.   The policy proposal represented a major departure from the meritocratic system currently in place, in which 50-75% of the class was admitted on GPA and test scores alone.

But despite the audacity of such a plan, the triumph of the Diversitistas’ campaign for comprehensive review was nearly inevitable.  Their leaders were more powerful and better organized than the scant opposition – and it didn’t hurt that then-UC President Richard Atkinson was on their side.  Along with powerful friends in high places, the proponents boasted a highly motivated ground attack.

    UCLA student radicals had been organizing from the first time that the Regents discussed ending affirmative action.  And while they were sent reeling from SP-1 and SP-2, and suffered the crushing blow of Proposition 209, they just as quickly began to turn the tide.

    On May 16, 2001, the Diversitistas forced the symbolic repeal of SP-1, and quickly followed that with their defining triumph, the November 15, 2001 passage of a new “comprehensive review” admissions system.  The process, still ill-defined at the time of its passage, broke so many precedents that its full effect would not be understood for many months.

    What was immediately obvious was the hastiness of the decision.  On the UC level, reforms have typically moved at a snail’s pace – especially any changes to admissions systems or standards.  But not in the case of comprehensive review.  The Regents proved so eager to satisfy the diversity lobby that the changes were made literally in the middle of the Fall 2002 class’ application period.  Worse yet, the changes were effective immediately.  Many students had already submitted their applications when the criteria were changed, but were given no opportunity to resubmit information to address the new areas of emphasis.

    The sudden change also had a negative effect on sophomore and junior students.  Those who had been placing greater emphasis on academics over extracurriculars – in line with the previous criteria – were thrust into a new system which discriminated against all-grades, few-activities students.  Perversely, the new system most disadvantaged the worthiest applicants – those high school students dedicated enough to micromanage a high school career in line with UCLA admissions standards.

    With one fell swoop, the Regents not only sent its most dedicated future applicants back to the start, it actually sent them behind less dedicated students, who, by dumb luck, or mere neglect, had the jack-of-all-trades record suddenly favored by UCLA admissions.  But then, comprehensive review was never about equity, or fairness to those playing by the rules.  And it was no accident that the changes hit future  white and Asian applicants the hardest.  UCLA admissions officials figured that as members of “overrepresented” groups (in their cruel bureaucratic jargon), these applicants would take care of themselves.  It was unsuccessful minority applicants who needed love and nurturing.

    Go to Chapter 2 - A Pale Imitation