UCLA Moves Toward Holistic Admissions

Responding partly to campus concerns regarding dwindling minority enrollment, UCLA officials have proposed a major overhaul to campus admissions processes to be implemented as early as next year, focusing more on student achievement in context of their personal experiences.

The campus, spurred by acting Chancellor Norman Abrams and other faculty, may follow UC Berkeley’s admissions policy.

Currently, in an attempt to ensure objectivity during admissions selection, UCLA separates applicants’ personal information from their academic history, allowing different readers to analyze the application in parts.

The policy shift would introduce all of an applicant’s information to readers at the same time.

A UCLA faculty committee approved the outline for admissions policy changes earlier this month, and although details need to be finalized, two more faculty panels are expected to vote on the proposal soon.

According to the Los Angeles Times, after black community leaders and alumni called for an overhaul of UCLA’s admissions process in response to the lowest number of admitted black freshmen enrollment since 1973, campus officials decided to introduce the admissions reforms, starting with a study of UC Berkeley’s policies. This year, 96 black students were likely to enroll, comprising just 2 percent of UCLA’s entering class.

“It’s hard for big institutions to make 90-degree turns while driving 70 mph, and I’m proud of my alma mater for doing that,” Peter Taylor, a Los Angeles businessman and prominent black UCLA alumnus, told the Times.

However, Abrams responded that UCLA would continue to abide by Proposition 209, a 1996 initiative barring the preferential use of race and gender by state agencies. He also said that the new admissions policy would lead to fairer admissions standards for all applicants and that the change was not geared toward specifically raising black student levels.

“In my view, this should not be done — and under California law, cannot be done — to improve our African American admissions numbers, but because it’s desirable to improve our processes overall,” Abrams told the Times.

In response, Ward Connerly, the conservative former UC regent who was a chief proponent of Proposition 209, said that UCLA had the right to change its procedures according to state law and UC guidelines. However, he shrugged off the idea that UCLA was not making the change as a result of the racial admit numbers, saying it “doesn’t pass the giggle test.”

“It’s obvious why they’re doing it and what their objective is,” Connerly told the Times.

At UCSD, admissions practices will continue to be conducted according to the University of California’s “comprehensive review” policy, a rule allowed to be interpreted as each campus deems fit and in which personal factors are considered along with grades and standardized test scores, according to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Admissions and Registration Mae W. Brown.

“The university will continue to look broadly at a number of factors,” Brown said, including low family income, first-generation college attendance, community service and special challenges.

In addition, Brown said that UCSD’s current point-based admissions policy would remain in effect through next year but did not rule out the possibility of a 2008 policy change, which would have to be approved by the campus’ committee on admissions, which consists of several faculty members and is responsible for overseeing and amending admissions criteria.

Readers can contact Matthew McArdle at [email protected].