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

Chapter 2
A Pale Imitation

    The true nature of comprehensive review would not become fully apparent for some time.  If practiced according to theory, the policy looks at the entire student, reviewing GPA, test scores, breadth and difficulty of courses taken, personal statements, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and more.  But the financial and organizational strain introduced by a truly comprehensive review process is why it is practiced almost exclusively by private schools.  The UC, from the first year to present, proved utterly incapable of offering even the barest simulacrum of holistic admissions.

    The first and most obvious obstacle was a simple matter of numbers.  In 2004, UCLA received a nation-leading 43,199 applications, reviewed by 140 UCLA staff or volunteer readers.  Compare this number to Harvard, America’s most prestigious and desirable university, which in that same year received 20,986 applications.  It is fair to assume that all 20,000-plus Harvard applicants received a full and thorough review – one of the glorious excesses affordable to a school with a $65 application fee and an endowment in excess of $22 billion.

    By contrast, the demographic crush of 43,000-plus applicants meant that each UCLA review lasts an average of eight to ten minutes – total.  And despite making laughably cursory reviews, UCLA still did not have time to review letters of recommendation, much less conduct personal interviews – both hallmarks of the private school process.  It is these shortcomings, and several others, which led UCLA professor Matt Malkan to rightly deride the process as a “parody of what the Ivy Leagues do.”[i] 

    The system, as described by the Daily Bruin immediately after its November 2001 approval, was intended to “evaluate UC applicants on academic achievements, personal achievements and life challenges in no given ratio.”[ii]  As awkward and vague as that summary is, the actual process of comprehensive review was even less elegant.

    In the eight to ten minutes they are allotted per applicant, readers review comprehensive dossiers composed of the UC application, a personal statement, and a summary sheet of academic information.  The staff and volunteers assign a ranking of one to five for “personal achievement” and another numerical ranking on the same scale for “life challenges.”  Another group of readers conduct academic reviews looking at grades, test scores, scholastic honors, and breadth and difficulty of high school coursework, assigning a score between one and six.

    It would be a challenge to communicate the “holistic” reality of any applicant in eighty minutes, if not eight hours.  But the process was never about allowing UCLA to make a superior admissions decision.  It was only a smoke-screen for a hurry-up boiler room process, with reviewers skimming for buzz-words (“barrio,” “poverty,” “ghetto,” “crime,” etc..) by which they might justify what they wanted to do already – admit more minorities.

    In line with the preoccupation with race (or its indirect signifiers of which, the UCLA reviewers are keenly aware), is a hatred for race-blind standards – since they tend to yield disappointing numbers of minority admissions.  Standardized tests are a particular bogeyman to the proponents of comprehensive reviews.  But the SAT, along with GPA, is an objective measure thrown away at our peril.  As UCLA Professor Matt Malkan points out, the SAT “is the only standardized test taken by most college-bound students for the last 30 years. It is the only practical way to compare the academic preparation of high school students across the country.”[iii]  Moreover, the SAT is the only way for all students to compete on a level playing field.

    The irony of the radical diversity lobby’s hatred for the SAT is the test’s historical role in establishing a meritocracy beneficial to a racial minority.  In the 1920s, a rising tide of Jewish students was so successful at the SAT that Ivy League schools had to create legacy admissions – preferences for children of (then almost exclusively non-Jewish) alumni – to keep their numbers down.

    Just as the Jews’ Ivy League success in the 1920s threatened the established order of things, so did the success of Asian UC applicants in the post-Prop. 209 era.  Though the Diversitistas would hotly deny it – after all, they’re busy righting the world’s wrongs – both the legacy admissions of yesteryear, and the comprehensive review of today, are equally corrupt in their purpose and effect.

    Setting aside UCLA’s practical inability to conduct a proper comprehensive review, or the historical myopia inherent in its dislike of standardized tests, there is a larger truth about this particular admissions system.  Whether practiced by UCLA, Harvard or Cal State Fresno, comprehensive review will always far short of its impossible goal, for one simple reason: only God himself really knows “the whole person.”

    Go to Chapter 3 - Things Fall Apart
[i] “Barriers Students Faced Count In University Admission Process,” by Daniel Golden, The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2002


[iii] “Barriers Students Faced Count In University Admission Process,” by Daniel Golden, The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2002