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Fairness of UC Policy Is Debated

Regents: Connerly questions new use of personal factors in admissions reviews, wants an audit.


SAN FRANCISCO — University of California Regent Ward Connerly asked fellow regents Thursday to consider an outside audit of the university's new comprehensive admissions policy, citing concerns about the policy's fairness.

UC President Richard Atkinson said he has seen no evidence of unfairness in use of the policy, which allows personal factors, along with academic ones, to be taken into account for all applicants.

During the discussion at the regents' meeting, only Chairman John Moores expressed support for Connerly's request. Several others said they would wait for a UC-generated report, expected in November, on how the new guidelines are working before making up their minds.

First used in considering this year's freshman class, the policy allows admission officers to look at personal achievement, as well as grades and test scores, in reviewing all applicants. Previously, such personal factors as athletic or artistic ability or a struggle against poverty or other hardships could be considered for no more than half the freshman class at each of the university's eight undergraduate campuses.

Connerly, who went along with the policy change in last November's vote, said he has become concerned about it since then for several reasons, including whether it is being used to get around the state's ban on affirmative action. Connerly was one of the architects of that ban.

In other cases, he asked, does the new emphasis on such subjective factors as personal adversity "provide opportunities [for students] to embellish life experiences that can never be proven?"

Connerly said he based his concerns on conversations with high school counselors and others within and outside the UC, as well as anecdotal accounts of students adversely affected by the policy, especially at the university's most selective campuses.

But Atkinson offered a spirited defense of the admissions change, saying that grades and test scores remain the most important factors in evaluating any applicant for admission to the university. He said neither race nor ethnicity is considered in the process.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said he too believes the policy is fair and said it has helped university officials identify the best students. Admissions officers are not easily fooled by tales of hardship that don't ring true, Berdahl said. "I don't think any applicant is disadvantaged by anything in this other than a lack of academic performance," he said.

Also Thursday, regents heard a preliminary report of the university's anticipated challenges over the next decade. Enrollment is expected to soar from about 187,000 now to at least 217,000 in 2010.

The enrollment growth, largely the result of the children of the baby boom generation heading to college, will create a need for new housing, more classroom space and at least 550 new faculty members each year, officials said.

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