UC Regents Consider Changing Admissions Policy in Response to 'Toxic' Racial Climate

Photo: <b>Protesters</b> watched as members of the Commission on the Future presented recommendations to improve the UC system last Tuesday.
Anna Vignet/Photo
Protesters watched as members of the Commission on the Future presented recommendations to improve the UC system last Tuesday.

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A tense discussion of a "toxic" racial climate took center stage at last week's meeting of the UC Board of Regents.

Board members responded to recent racially motivated incidents throughout the 10-campus system that have garnered national attention in recent months. While several regents directly apologized for not doing enough in response to the incidents, the board as a whole will consider increasing minority enrollment and funding for retention and recruitment centers as part of efforts to rectify the situation.

Co-chairs of the UCSD Black Student Union Fnann Keflezighi and David Ritcherson said the racial climate at their campus had become "toxic" following a party entitled the "Compton Cookout" and the discovery of a noose hung inside a campus library.

"Students don't feel safe going to class, I personally don't feel safe going to class," Ritcherson said. "It's disheartening."

UC President Mark Yudof said that he would seek changes in admissions policy as well as the creation of scholarships for underrepresented minorities in order to improve diversity.

He said all the UC campuses needed to employ a holistic review-currently employed at UC Berkeley and UCLA-when screening applicants, rather than focusing on SAT scores and grade point averages in making admissions decisions.

"I want a system that is less mechanical, that takes a look seriously at a range of talents, at skills and history," he said after the meeting.

Several regents expressed support for the proposal, which they said could be implemented without violating Proposition 209, which prevents state institutions including the university from considering race, sex or ethnicity in admissions decisions.

"It is our own standards and slavish adherence to grade point averages and SAT scores that have put us in this dilemma," said Regent Eddie Island, who drew applause from students, faculty and staff. "We value those things higher than we value other human qualities that are just as important and that can make a contribution within the UC environment."

Other students and faculty at the meeting said that changing the admissions process alone would not improve the racial climate at the UC campuses.

"Changing the admissions policy at UC San Diego is not going to change the problem," Keflezighi said while addressing the board. "If you admit more black students, they are still not going to come to UCSD, knowing that the climate is going to be hostile towards them. You all should honestly be ashamed of yourselves if you are just going to increase the numbers and think that critical mass is going to change it."

Dan Simmons, vice chair of the academic senate, cautioned the board against expecting new admissions requirements to fundamentally alter racial tensions on campuses.

"It's not our admissions process that carved swastikas on the doors in the students' dormitory room, it's not our admissions process that put a noose in the San Diego library," Simmons said. "I don't want to see us misled into thinking that getting the board focused on admissions policy and process is going to solve our problem. Our problem is far deeper, far, far deeper than that."

In addition to the discussion of racial tensions at the university, the board created a special committee to examine a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to have the university provide health care for 161,000 inmates in the state corrections system. A report presented to the board claimed such a move would save the state $4 billion over five years.

"We are going to have to spend a great deal of time to determine how and if the university is going to get involved," said Board Chair Russell Gould.

Tags: UC SAN DIEGO, PROPOSITION 209, UC BOARD OF REGENTS, UC SAN FRANCISCO, UC BERKELEY


Javier Panzar covers higher education.Contact him at [email protected]



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