Leaders in Los Angeles’ African American community called Thursday for the overhaul of UCLA’s undergraduate admissions practices, charging that many black applicants were unfairly rejected by the university.
The demand for reforms follows the disclosure two weeks ago that blacks account for only 96, or 2%, of the more than 4,700 freshmen expected to enroll at UCLA this fall. That is the lowest level in more than three decades, and gives UCLA a lower percentage of African American freshmen than USC or UC Berkeley.
The call for changes was also propelled by this week’s release of a report by researchers at UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies that was sharply critical of the university’s freshmen admissions procedures.
In a news conference on campus, a newly formed group consisting of African American religious, civic, alumni and student leaders said UCLA’s admissions practices discriminate against blacks.
The Alliance for Equal Opportunity in Education rejected university administrators’ frequent assertion that California’s ban on affirmative action in public employment, contracting and education -- mandated by the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996 -- was a major impediment to bringing in more black students.
The activists called for a complete overhaul of admissions practices to bring about “immediate and demonstrative actions to increase African American admissions and enrollment.” They did not offer specifics other than urging a more holistic approach that would put applicants’ achievements and performance in a fairer context.
Mandla Kayise, president of the UCLA Black Alumni Assn., said the alliance holds the University of California regents and the UCLA administration responsible for “denying highly qualified African American students who have achieved some of the highest levels of academic achievement [and] personal achievement and have overcome some of the greatest life challenges of any group of students the African American community has ever produced.”
“They have been accepted at UC Berkeley, they have been accepted at USC, they have been accepted to top campuses across this country and yet we find some of those same students have been denied at UCLA,” Kayise said.
UCLA officials said that their declining number of black freshmen was tied to Proposition 209. Before the ban was imposed on affirmative action, “We consistently led the UC system year after year after year in both the number of admits and the proportion of our freshman classes that were underrepresented minorities,” said Tom Lifka, a UCLA assistant vice chancellor.
But many of the group of about 20 black community leaders who appeared at the UCLA news conference cited the new Bunche Center report as evidence of UCLA’s flawed admissions practices.
That report noted that UCLA is extending fewer admissions offers to black high school seniors despite rising percentages of African American students in the state who are meeting the minimum standards for eligibility for UC campuses and who are applying to the schools.
Darnell Hunt, director of the Bunche Center, said UCLA’s admissions procedures fail to fully account for the obstacles low-income black students often face compared to affluent students who have more opportunities to take Advanced Placement courses and SAT preparation classes.
He added that UCLA’s numbers of African American students have fallen to such low levels that even when black prospective students visit the campus, “It becomes a tough sell when they ... don’t see any other people like themselves.”
Ward Connerly, a former UC regent and leading opponent of affirmative action, took issue with the Bunche report, saying that the main problem is a small pool of high-performing black high school students.