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Activists protest against low UC minority enrollment

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet staff
Saturday April 06, 2002

In a second straight day of protests, a small group of UC Berkeley students and Oakland school teachers picketed in front of the university’s California Hall Friday, objecting to a decline in the number of African-American, Latino and Native American students admitted to the university for the 2002-2003 school year.  

Protesters also argued that the University of California system should immediately drop the SAT as an admissions requirement in order to boost minority enrollment. 

But UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment Richard Black said the university admitted fewer students overall this year. While there was a decline in the raw number of “underrepresented” students admitted — African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans – the percentage of those students admitted compared to the whole actually increased. 

Last year, 17.1 percent of admitted students were from underrepresented groups. This year the figure was 17.5 percent. 

Black also disputed the notion that dropping the SAT would boost minority acceptances. 

“These decisions were not SAT decisions,” he said, referring to this year’s admissions. “It was one factor, but just one factor.” 

Black said the university gave primary consideration to students’ grades and course selection, while taking other factors like community service and leadership qualities into consideration, along with the SAT. 

But students argued that the SAT is a culturally-biased test and that there will not be an adequate increase in minority enrollment until it is eliminated as an admissions requirement. 

UC President Richard Atkinson has pushed the system to drop the SAT, and earlier this year, a key UC academic committee proposed that the system replace the SAT with tests more closely aligned to California high school curriculum. 

The UC Board of Regents is weighing the proposal and is expected to vote on it this summer. Student protesters called for an earlier vote Friday. 

“They’ve been talking about it, but not acting,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Ronald Cruz. “They’ve been equivocating all year.” 

Regent Ward Connerly said he did not expect a vote before July and added that the board may not even be ready for a vote then. 

“The Regents are not convinced that this is the way to go,” he said, arguing that the SAT is a proven test and that the board may be reluctant to replace it with an unknown quantity. 

Connerly also disputed the notion that the SAT is culturally-biased.  

“I don’t buy it,” he said. 

Protesters noted that admissions at UC’s top tier schools, which they defined as UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles and UC San Diego, did not include as many “underrepresented” students as the system-wide average. 

System-wide, 19.1 percent of UC admits were African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. The figure was 17.9 percent at UCLA and 14.4 percent at UCSD. 

“We need all the schools to be integrated,” said Tania Kappner, an Oakland school teacher and graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Education. “Separate never has been equal.” 

But Hanan Eisenman noted that UC has improved “underrepresented” enrollment system-wide. The 19.1 percent figure represents an improvement over last year’s 18.6 percent, Eisenman noted, and is the highest total in the post-affirmative action era.  

In 1997, the last year UC considered race in determining admissions, the figure was 18.8 percent.