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UC Berkeley Faculty Panel Finds No Pattern of Asian Bias in Admissions

February 28, 1989|LARRY GORDON | Times Education Writer

Some policies at UC Berkeley hurt the admissions chances of Asian-Americans between 1981 and 1987, but there is no clear evidence that the campus purposely limited the number of Asian freshmen, a faculty report concludes.

"In our investigation, we have found nothing remotely resembling a quota on the admission of Asian-Americans at Berkeley. Nor have we found statistical evidence of any significant systematic or long-term bias against Asian-Americans," states a draft copy of a study by a special committee of UC Berkeley's Academic Senate.

However, the draft report urges change in the use of foreign language achievement tests for admissions because there are no such tests in Asian languages. So UC Berkeley should either stop giving a boost to applicants who do well in European language tests or the university should develop its own such test for youngsters who know Asian languages, according to the study.

In addition, the report said the eight-member committee "cannot rule out" the possibility of anti-Asian intent of both a 1984 policy that raised the necessary high school grade-point average for entrance to UC Berkeley's College of Letters and Science and a 1987 increase in mandatory language skills at the College of Environmental Design. Both policies have been changed.

A final version of the report is to be given to the Academic Senate by the end of the week and may be slightly different than the draft, officials said. The committee chairman, anthropology professor William Shack, declined to comment on the report before it is formally unveiled. The Times obtained a copy of the draft.

The issue of Asian-American admissions to UC has been politically hot since 1984, triggering previous studies by the UC Berkeley administration and the state auditor general. The federal government is investigating allegations of anti-Asian bias at UCLA and Harvard.

Civil rights activists claim UC Berkeley and other schools designed admissions rules to cut back on the number of high-achieving Asian students out of fears that they would take the places of too many Anglo students. The new faculty report has not changed some minds.

When told of the latest report's conclusions, Henry Der, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a San Francisco organization that has been active in the UC admissions field, declared: "It's a whitewash. The evidence of anti-Asian sentiment is staring them right in the face. . . . Maybe it's asking too much for a faculty subcommittee to chastise their colleagues or superiors publicly."

According to the draft report, statistics show a small bias favoring Anglos over Asians for freshman admission between 1981 and 1987, but only between 11 and 18 more Asian-Americans a year would have been offered entrance at UC Berkeley if policies had been changed. The numbers are too small to indicate long-term bias, the report says.

Grade-Point Requirement

Of the 22,671 undergraduates last semester at UC Berkeley, Anglo students made up 48.5%, Asians 26.5%, Latinos 11.1% and blacks 7%, with the remainder made up of other groups or people who declined to identify their ethnic background, according to a campus spokesman.

Under an abandoned admissions system, the College of Letters and Science at UC Berkeley in 1984 raised the minimum grade-point average from 3.75 to 3.9 but did not raise the required minimum scores on college entrance exams.

"Because Asians were more likely to be admitted by GPA and Anglos by test scores, Asians were comparatively disadvantaged," the faculty report states. However, that system of evaluating either grade-point average or entrance exams was dropped the following year for one that combines high school grades, test scores and other factors.

A decision in 1984 to stop guaranteeing a spot at UC Berkeley to all low-income students who met overall UC academic standards also hurt Asians more than Anglos, the study says. But that cannot be proven to be anti-Asian, according to the committee, which was formed in November, 1987.

Patrick Hayashi, the campus's associate vice chancellor in charge of admissions and enrollment, said Monday that he had not seen the new study but that he was pleased with the reported conclusions of the draft.

"It is the kind of reassurance that everyone welcomes, not only the university faculty and administration but the Asian community too," Hayashi said. He added that the admissions process is much changed and less secretive than it was in 1984.

In October, 1987, the state auditor general found that Anglos appeared to have a slightly easier time than Asians in gaining admission to UC Berkeley but found no pattern of discrimination. An internal campus study earlier the same year found no evidence of bias.

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