Judge Backs UC On Admissions Requirements

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A federal judge ruled in favor of University of California officials last week after a Christian high school challenged university policies that determine which high school courses fulfill admission requirements.

The Association of Christian Schools International, Calvary Chapel Christian School and a handful of students filed a suit in 2005, claiming that the university and its officials violated their First Amendment freedoms in not approving several of the religious high school's course offerings.

Judge S. James Otero of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California determined that the university's overall a-g requirement policies for course approval do not reflect unconstitutional discrimination. However, the court has not decided whether or not the university's decision in this particular instance demonstrates discrimination.

The a-g requirements classify types of high school courses that will be accepted for admissions and are considered among other factors when determining admissions for new students.

"In the light most favorable to Defendants, the course-review process at worst symbolically disapproves of the academic value of Plaintiffs' beliefs," said the ruling from the court. "In light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the course-review process burdens students who must take additional tests to demonstrate proficiency in the A-G Subjects."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the court will likely rule on the issue within a year.

The Christian school offers 43 courses that have been approved by UC as a-g courses, but some courses in subjects such as biology and history were not approved.

UC officials said the ruling demonstrates that their approval procedures, as they stand, do not discriminate by religion.

"The decision is important because it affirms the University's ability to set reasonable admissions standards that apply equally to all applicants and all schools," read a statement from the university.

Ken Smitherman, president of the Christian schools association, said the university should approve courses that are taught at the high school, even if there are inherent religious biases.

"We believe there has been exhibited viewpoint discrimination," he said. "We believe that our schools, if they choose ... to have a religious bias in particular courses ... are being discriminated against because of that viewpoint."

However, university officials said the courses were evaluated according to their instructional value. One literature course at the high school, for example, was not approved because its primary text was an anthology rather than a full text.

"The University has declined to approve courses that use as their primary source the books named in the case, not because they have religious content, but because they fail to meet the university's standards for effectively teaching the required subject matter," read the university statement.

University policy states that students planning to apply to the university may seek alternatives when meeting the university's a-g requirements by taking courses at community colleges or through standardized tests.

Although many students who are plaintiffs in the case were granted admission to the university, attorneys for the plaintiffs said problems with course approval at the high school will likely continue.

"If the courses are continually denied then it will have a greater impact on the ability for students to attend UC in the future," said Jennifer Monk, legal counsel for the plaintiffs.


Angelica Dongallo covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]

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