SAN FRANCISCO — The recommendation that the University of California stop using SAT scores in admissions will undergo a rigorous review to ensure that standards at the state's premier higher education institution will not diminish, the chairman of an oversight committee said Friday.
Keith Widaman, a UC Riverside psychology professor who heads the university's Board of Admissions and Relations With Schools, an 11-member faculty group that sets eligibility criteria, did not offer an opinion on whether the standardized Scholastic Assessment Tests should be dropped in favor of relying more heavily on applicants' high school grades.
But he raised concerns about the Latino Eligibility Task Force's recommendation, made Thursday, and other proposals to increase the eligibility rates of minorities and women.
"It seems to me there are a number of proposals that sound reasonable and seem simple but what we're dealing with here is a very complex problem," Widaman said. "Every single one of the proposals is potentially an oversimplified solution to a very complex problem."
The eligibility issue has heated up since the Board of Regents voted in 1995 to ban affirmative action in admissions decisions beginning this academic year. Already, the university has seen a dramatic drop in the number of black and Latino applicants.
The task force's recommendation to drop the SATs--seen as a way to increase minority enrollment--could be discussed at the admissions board's November meeting, Widaman said. Also to be taken up then is a proposal to offer automatic admission to the top 12.5%--or some other percentage--of each high school's graduating class.
The earliest his panel could make a formal proposal to the regents would be at the end of the academic year in May, he said, meaning the first class subject to any new admissions policy would be the one entering UC in the fall of 1999.
But Widaman said scrutiny, not speed, will guide the board's analysis of the task force's data and an upcoming report by the California Post-Secondary Education Commission on the UC and California State University eligibility rates of high school seniors who graduated in 1996.
Reaction to the SAT recommendation continued Friday even as the Board of Regents wrapped up its meeting by approving salary raises averaging 4% for 19 top administrators and chancellors.
Roger Clegg, general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative Washington-based think tank, said any policy aimed at increasing the eligibility of one group discriminates against others and therefore would be unconstitutional.
"There's discrimination where you are explicitly taking race into account, which was the old system that the University of California had . . . but it's also discrimination if a decision-maker adopts a selection device because it will have a particular racial effect," he said. "That's what appears to be going on here."
Widaman said the proposal to drop the SATs raises a number of questions: Would grade-point averages be reliable if teachers inflate grades? Should a GPA earned in an academically inferior school be weighed the same as one from a stellar school? If the SATs are not used, what would take their place?
"Lowering the quality of student admitted to the University of California has been a concern," Widaman said, adding that faculty already are disturbed by students' apparently increasing inability to do course work.
UC Provost C. Judson King similarly expressed concern about high school grade inflation, noting that without the SATs or a similar test, "if everybody decides to give everyone As, we're lost."
The raises approved Friday are part of a salary increase for all employees, including an average 4% for other staff and 7% for faculty.
Effective Nov. 1, UC President Richard Atkinson's salary will increase from $253,300 to $263,500.
The highest-paid chancellor, UC San Francisco's Haile T. Debas, will see a boost from $249,500 to $259,500. The highest-paid UC official remains Vice President for Clinical Services William H. Gurtner, whose salary will rise from $325,000 to $335,000. They are among the highest paid officials because of competition in their fields: Debas oversees a campus devoted to medical education and Gurtner oversees the university's teaching hospitals and other medical facilities.
At UCLA, Chancellor Albert Carnesale's salary will go from $222,700 to $230,000. Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl's will increase to $230,000 from $222,700.
Times education writer Richard Lee Colvin also contributed to this story.