Advertisement

UC Regents Disavow Chief’s Claim of Bias in Admissions

Share
Times Staff Writer

The University of California regents clashed sharply over race and admissions practices Thursday as the board narrowly passed a resolution repudiating the views of Chairman John J. Moores, who in a magazine essay this month accused UC of racial discrimination.

Moores wrote in a March issue of Forbes that UC has been “discriminating so blatantly against Asians” and is “victimizing students -- not just those unfairly denied admission but also many with low college entrance exam scores who were admitted and can’t compete.”

The regents passed by an 8-6 vote a two-page resolution affirming support for UC admissions policies and stating that “the views on UC admissions policies expressed by Regent John J. Moores in ... Forbes magazine do not represent the views of the Board of Regents.”

Advertisement

Monica C. Lozano, one of three regents who introduced the resolution, said she was concerned that Moores’ position, which she called “objectionable,” could be mistaken by the public as being endorsed by the board as a whole.

Moores, who late last year ignited debate throughout the university by issuing a report challenging UC Berkeley’s admissions practices, called the resolution “outrageous.” He also said it was filled with “delicious irony” because the target of much of his criticism has been the Berkeley campus, home to historic protests over the right to free speech.

“Remember that?” Moores asked, referring to the Free Speech Movement. He stared straight at Regent Joanne Corday Kozberg, a Berkeley alumna and supporter of the resolution.

“You may not like my challenging the orthodoxy, but there is absolutely no justification” for the resolution, he said.

Regent Ward Connerly, who led the effort to outlaw racial preferences in California, also was appalled at the vote. “I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it,” he said.

The resolution marked the latest flare-up in a series of public disputes over admissions since October, when Moores introduced his report on undergraduate admissions at Berkeley.

Advertisement

The report found that nearly 400 students were admitted in 2002 with SAT scores below 1000 -- about 300 points below the campus median. The report also noted that more than 600 students with SAT scores of 1500 or higher were rejected (1600 is a perfect score).

After Moores’ report, a study group of regents and UC faculty and administrators convened to examine admission practices.

Minutes before the dust-up over Moores’ magazine piece, the study group had presented its preliminary findings to the regents. The group reported that if factors such as parental income and education levels, high school quality and the rigor of high school course work were taken into account, admission rates for minority applicants and whites varied only slightly.

Admission rates for minorities were far higher than those for whites in 1997, when the university still considered race in admissions, the group reported.

Several regents praised the study group’s findings. Connerly said he was delighted by the group’s work, and said it seemed to reflect “a cultural change among the admissions people.”

Connerly said more research could show that UC’s admission system, known as “comprehensive review,” could be working. The system considers numerous personal factors such as leadership and socioeconomic background along with grades, test scores and coursework.

Advertisement

“Comprehensive review, administered with integrity, makes sense,” he said.

UC President Robert C. Dynes said more research was needed, but nevertheless called the committee’s findings “a watershed.”

The goodwill evaporated quickly, however, as regents debated the resolution on Moores.

Peter Preuss, a regent since 1996, said the debate showed a deterioration of collegiality on the board. He said the vote was “about who has more power than whom,” and noted that only four regents had dined together the previous evening, a departure from his earlier years on the board when regents looked forward to spending time with each other.

After the meeting, Moores again assailed UC’s admissions policies. “There are remarkably consistent, clear patterns of racial discrimination” against Asian Americans in undergraduate admissions, Moores said.

He said the data supporting his claims had been deemed confidential by UC officials, and had been withheld even from regents until recently. Asked where the information was, Moores held up his blue UCLA tote bag and said “right here.”

Moores said his belief that Asian Americans had been discriminated against was based on their being the largest group of students with SAT scores above 1400 who were rejected by top UC campuses.

Responding to Moores’ charges, UC officials repeated their assertion that when other demographic and socioeconomic factors are considered, there are only slight differences in admission rates among whites, Asian Americans and other minorities.

Advertisement

Moores, a lawyer, accused admissions officials of manipulating data to mask discriminatory practices, likening them to “lawyers who can call a camel a horse when it’s really a cat.”

Advertisement