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UC Moves to Toughen Freshman Admission Standards

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The University of California on Thursday moved to toughen freshman admission standards by requiring prospective students to have completed a second year of a social science class and a second year of lab science in high school.

The new rules, expected to gain final approval today, would be in effect for students entering the UC system in fall of 1994. The tougher standards are intended to make sure that students are better prepared for university work and to force high schools to adopt more rigorous curricula, officials said.

“We feel we should be setting the standards for what people should know,” said Fred Spiess, chairman of the UC Academic Senate, the system’s faculty organization.

The changes were approved Thursday by the UC regents’ committee on educational policy. The full Board of Regents is expected to adopt the policy today.

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Under existing entrance standards, UC applicants must have taken four years of college preparatory English, three years of mathematics, two years of a foreign language, a year of lab science and a year of American history (or a half-year of U.S. history and a half-year of U.S. government).

Under the new plan, applicants must also take a year of world history, cultures or geography and a second year of lab science. The sciences can be biology, chemistry, physics and some environmental studies courses.

In exchange, the number of required college preparatory electives will decline from four to two.

Regent Yori Wada said he was worried that the changes could hurt the chances of minority and poor applicants from financially troubled school districts such as Oakland and San Francisco. “I question the ability of those public schools to offer the courses we require,” he said.

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However, William Frazer, UC senior vice president for academic affairs, said that about 90% of current UC students already met the tougher high school requirements. And, he added, if small school districts are unable to provide extra courses, their otherwise eligible students could still gain UC admission through special consideration.

For UC entrance, an applicant must have at least a 3.30 grade average in the required high school courses, or at least a 2.78 average and strong scores on entrance and achievement exams. In practice, though, standards are much higher for the most competitive campuses, such as UC Berkeley and UCLA, and students increasingly are denied admission at their first-choice UC school.

In other business Thursday, regents again engaged in a heated debate over a 21-year-old issue: the future of People’s Park in Berkeley.

After a lengthy discussion, a regents committee approved in concept a plan to lease part of that troubled 2.8-acre property to the city for development as a recreation area. However, the fate of that proposal before the full board today is uncertain.

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A symbol of political radicalism at its creation in 1969, the park is now a haven for homeless people and drug dealers. The lease plan would give the city five years to clean up the park in cooperation with UC Berkeley. If that is not done, the university could go ahead with its much-debated proposal to build a dormitory on the park.

Though the park is not on the main campus, it is owned by the university.

In the late 1960s, plans by the regents to build on the site sparked confrontations between students and authorities, including the infamous 1969 riot that left one person dead and scores injured.

At Thursday’s meeting, Regent William French Smith, who was U.S. attorney general in the Reagan Administration, argued strongly against the proposed lease, calling it a “cowardly” response to the park’s problems.

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“We have been festering a cesspool,” he said of the park. “It seems to me this agreement does nothing more than perpetuate the problems we’ve been dealing with for the past 20 years.”

But both UC President David P. Gardner and UC Berkeley Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman said the proposed lease symbolized improved ties between the school and the city. The plan calls for the building of a shelter for the homeless on UC land elsewhere in Berkeley, better policing of People’s Park and the addition of some student sports facilities there.


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