So it turns out UCB let in a group of people who didn’t meet the minimum SAT scores, and it was revealed that 90% of them were non-white. Two of the Regents who spearheaded the Prop 209 effort are upset that this may be an “end run” around racial preferences.
But, at the same time, one of these two (Ward Connerly) has widely sold the idea of class-based affirmative action as a replacement for race-based admissions. When universities in California look at complete records, and admit borderline candidates, he assumes that this is somehow admitting on race and not on potential.
“It is outrageous. They don’t have any business going to Berkeley,” said Moores [the other Regent], who did his own preliminary study of 2002 admissions data recently without looking at race. He was intrigued by the 2001 data and said it appears the students were admitted for “all the wrong reasons.”
“I always expect the kid that doesn’t test well that turns out to be a whizbang, but there are not hundreds at Berkeley. It can’t be,” Moores said. “I believe there is a huge element of social justice behind some of the (decisions). [Lord forbid! – ah] I question whether people are really being honest of what the chances are of students being successful.”
The latter question can and should be asked empirically. It turns out that the SAT is a very poor predictor of college performance. If UCB is taking a close look at the admissions packets, especially among the income disadvantaged, more power to them.
I am ambivalent about affirmative action. I do happen to agree that some students are admitted who are not prepared for the university, but I also think that a lot of people who look good on tests and paper end up sleeping through 4 years, while others who might not have had stellar high school experiences blossom in college. I also think that economic advantage can stand in for race in some ways.
The problem seems to be with the fact that 90% of this group was non-white, and they have inferred a vast conspiracy to evade the new law because of this. The question should be this: what percentage of the (huge number of) families who are living below the poverty line are non-white? Given that you are about twice as likely to be below the poverty level if you are black or Hispanic, might it not be that the 90% number was not because they sought out non-whites, but because those coming from the poorer areas of California tended to be minorities?
I don’t like affirmative action for a bunch of reasons. I think that it hurts those minority students who could have and did get in on a level playing field and I think it sometimes sets up students to fail. I fully recognize that something must be done to try to bootstrap a solution to historical and continuing inequities, but something strikes me as fundamentally flawed in admitting students based on their skin-color. I would like to believe those who fight to get rid of race-based affirmative action when they say that it can be remedied more justly using class and economic-based selections. But then something like this comes along and it makes me realize just how narrow-minded many of those who push for these measures are.