UCLA Prof. Alleges Admissions Cover-up

    Claiming to have witnessed unfair admissions practices that disregard state laws prohibiting racial preference in applicant selection, UCLA professor Tim Groseclose resigned from his post last month after releasing an 89-page report detailing his reasons for suspicion.

    The political science professor resigned on Aug. 28 from UCLA’s Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools, stating that “a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that UCLA is cheating on admissions.”

    The former faculty member attributed much of his initial suspicion of internal misconduct to the generally negative attitudes that he claims to have observed among colleagues toward Proposition 209, a 1996 voter initiative that bars California’s public universities from considering factors such as race and religion in the admissions process.

    “Many people at UCLA look at Prop. 209 as an unjust law that should be violated,” Groseclose said. “That is the main position taken by most of the faculty, so everyone suspected a little bit of mischief in the admissions process.”

    Groseclose’s suspicion grew upon the campus’ implementation of a new holistic admissions process that places more emphasis on an applicant’s personal background and character as compared to UCLA’s previous point-based system.

    Groseclose believes that under the new system, minority applicants who self-report their racial backgrounds within their personal statements are more likely to be viewed as preferred candidates during the admissions process.

    Groseclose views this alleged racial preference as unjustly assisting a particular subset of the greater minority population.

    “We must help all minority students, and not just those who know to reveal their racial backgrounds in their applications,” he said.

    However, Kevin Reed, UCLA’s vice chancellor of legal affairs, claimed that the system in fact prevents collusion through its randomized review procedure.
    “[The holistic system] randomly assigns readers in a pool of more than 150 readers, combined with high-level review in the case of substantial disparity,” Reed said in a UCLA Today Online article.

    UCLA Chancellor Gene Block took a similar position in a statement addressing the university’s admissions process.

    “Our admissions process is legal and fair, and UCLA neither discriminates nor grants preference to prospective students based on race, ethnicity, sex or national origin,” Block said.

    Yet, since the university began employing the more subjective admissions process last year, the number of admitted black students has increased 100 percent from the year before.

    Groseclose cites this growing number as evidence that the committee faces “intense pressure from high-ranking officials for more minority — particularly African-American — representation in the student body.”

    Groseclose became most suspicious of the campus’ admissions procedure when he was repeatedly denied access to admissions data he requested needed to conduct an investigation of the system.

    “I went through every single possible route,” Groseclose said. “I put in requests for the data to the chancellor, vice chancellor and several officials on the Academic Senate, and I also made it clear that if they do not provide me with the data, that is necessary and sufficient for me to resign in protest, but every person just said no.”

    University officials reportedly cited state and systemwide privacy laws to justify their refusal to turn over the requested data. Groseclose, however, believes that these privacy claims can only explain so much of the university’s refusal to turn over the requested data, as the decision to do so comes down to the judgment of the chancellor.

    “If you read the university’s policy on privacy, it explicitly states that any university official with an educational interest can look at these applications, and that the chancellor can decide which university officials have educational interest,” Groseclose said. “There is no way that the privacy laws are preventing the chancellor from giving me the data.”

    Although Groseclose does not believe that his report and resignation will severely impact prospective students’ decisions to apply to UCLA, he hopes that his actions will ultimately bring about an increased level of transparency within the campus’ admissions process.

    “Even if a professor wants to do further investigation on this issue right now, he or she will need a court order to subpoena these applicants,” Groseclose said. “The only way to get rid of malfeasance is for either the California Legislature or the faculty senate to recognize that there are too few eyes that can see these data, and to enact a rule that allows a dozen people with diverse political views for fair oversight.”

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