Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Long Beach) asked this week for a federal civil rights investigation of alleged racial bias in UC San Diego admissions procedures based on his reading of newspaper articles about campus policies regarding Filipino applicants.
A top UCSD administrator, after learning Wednesday of Rohrabacher’s letter to the U.S. Department of Education, angrily accused Rohrabacher of misrepresenting facts and of fanning racial prejudice.
Joseph Watson, UCSD vice chancellor for undergraduate affairs, said the university is confident that any investigation would show it does not discriminate against any ethnic group or race, and he released figures to buttress the university’s position.
Rohrabacher, in his letter to the Education Department’s civil rights division, referred to newspaper articles last spring in which seven Filipino students from Sweetwater High School in National City held a press conference to complain that they were denied admission to the University of California while allegedly less-qualified Latino and black students were accepted.
“It appears from the statements of the university officials that about 40% of the places in the freshmen class are reserved for applicants of certain races and (that) applicants of other races, including Filipino-Americans, are excluded from competing for that 40% of entering places,” Rohrabacher wrote.
“This seems to be a quota based upon race that illegally discriminates against Filipino-Americans and possibly applicants of other races. . . . Please consider this a complaint of racial discrimination at the University of California at San Diego.”
In essence, Rohrabacher is charging UCSD with the same discrimination he has earlier alleged against UCLA and UC Berkeley in saying that their affirmative action policies to increase the number of undergraduate Latino and black students works against Asian-Americans and whites. Education department investigations at the other UC schools have not yet been concluded.
But Watson vehemently denied Wednesday that affirmative action hurts Asian-Americans and whites, and said that Rohrabacher made no attempt to contact UCSD for specifics about its policies.
“Mr. Rohrabacher is wrong when he says that 40% of admissions are reserved for certain races,” Watson said.
Watson said UCSD ranks every applicant to its campus according to a weighted averaging of the student’s high-school grade-point average in required academic courses, scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and other standardized achievement tests in English, science and foreign languages, plus grades in honors courses. The maximum score that a student can achieve under the weighted averaging is 8,000.
The university last year admitted about 6,400 students according to the academic ranking, or 60% of its total freshman class. The ethnic breakdown was 51.5% white, 29.7% Asian, 2.6% Filipino, 4% Latino and 0.01% black.
The remaining applicants not selected in the first group are further reviewed, with points added for factors such as underrepresented race or ethnicity, community service, athletics, special talents such as musical skills, leadership such as student body president in high school, California or San Diego-area residency, or low family income.
About 3,142 students with top scores in this group were subsequently admitted to fill the remaining 35%-40% of the class. The ethnic breakdown was 46.5% white, 26.5% Asian, 12% Latino, 3.5% Filipino and 2.3% black--percentages slightly lower for whites and Asians than in the first group, slightly higher for Filipinos and blacks and substantially higher for Latinos.
The remaining 5% of students admitted for the fall 1991 were reviewed individually for special circumstances, including appeals by students not accepted under the overall admissions process.
“The Rohrabacher approach is to play to public fears that something fishy is going on,” Watson said. “We don’t want anyone to feel we’re not giving everyone a fair and equitable review that can stand up to any scrutiny.
“It certainly doesn’t look like we are over admitting blacks and Chicano students. There’s no way that anyone can say we are excluding any group from an admissions category. And there is no single supplemental factor” that the university uses, he said.
“It’s one thing to have an affirmative action debate, I have no problem with that,” said Watson, though he noted that some critics view Latino and black students as “somehow not qualified to be at the University of California.”
But, Watson contended, “We want some representation of (these ethnic) groups because they are part of the state’s population, although they are a very small number of eligible high school graduates. But we not only want to admit them, we want to graduate them, and we will not admit students who do not have a reasonable chance of graduating.”
Watson also released information Wednesday showing that, of the 11 Filipino students who applied to UCSD for admission this fall from Sweetwater High, seven were admitted and three rejected, and one application was canceled. Sixteen of 19 Latino applicants were admitted, one of two Asians, one of two whites, and the single black applicant also was admitted.
Sweetwater, which has a heavy Latino and Filipino student enrollment, has made a major effort the past five years to qualify more students for UC and Cal State admissions.
Watson noted that, although the Filipino student who called the press conference in April, 1991, was rejected for a special bioengineering program at UC Berkeley under more stringent application policies, she was accepted at UCSD.
Yet Rohrabacher said in his letter that “press reports indicate that Asian-Americans have been systematically denied admission to UCSD because of their race--all in the name of diversity. What we’re seeing is social engineering at the expense of individual merit and achievement.”
UC San Diego Freshman Admissions
STANDARD SUPPLEMENTAL CRITERIA CRITERIA Number of Number of Ethnicity Students Percent Students Percent Filipino 164 2.6 109 3.5 Asian 1,901 29.7 831 26.5 Latino 260 4.0 377 12.0 Black 39 0.01 73 2.3 American Indian 18 0.003 27 0.01 Caucasian 3,299 51.5 1,460 46.5 Not Applicable 719 11.2 265 8.4 TOTAL 6,400 3,142
STANDARD CRITERIA: Students admitted according to academic grades and test scores, by ranking--total possible points: 8,000.
60% of all students are admitted through this process.
SUPPLEMENTAL CRITERIA: Students admitted by academic grades plus supplemental factors, including race, ethnicity, extracurricular activities, special talents.
Total possible supplemental points (added to total from standard criteria): 1,600
Remaining 40% of total admissions.
Source: UC San Diego