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The State

UC Regents Assail Chairman Over Admissions Report

November 21, 2003|Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writer

In a pointed rebuke of one of their own, several University of California regents publicly chastised Board of Regents Chairman John J. Moores on Thursday for issuing a recent report critical of the university's admissions policies, saying it has harmed individual students and the university itself.

Regent Judith Hopkinson said Moores' report, a preliminary analysis of admissions to UC Berkeley in 2002 that became public in October, had caused a "significant amount of confusion in the public mind and has hurt individual students."

The report, she and others said, created the impression that students with relatively low SAT scores did not deserve to be admitted to UC Berkeley.

Hopkinson, addressing the regents during their meeting at UCLA, also pressed for a legal opinion from UC general counsel James E. Holst on Moores' decision to attach the university's seal and statement of copyright protection to an analysis of which he was the primary author. Holst declined to do so publicly, but said he and Moores had discussed the matter.

Moores, both in demeanor and in his comments, appeared unbowed by the unusual public drubbing by Hopkinson and nearly half a dozen other regents.

He expressed the belief that UC's admissions practices should be fair, clear and legal, and said he worried that the university "might not be meeting that simple test."

"We may not be legal, we may not be fair and I promise you, we're not transparent," he said. "This process is so opaque that even we don't know what's going on."

Moores' analysis showed that UC Berkeley accepted nearly 400 students in 2002 with scores of 1000 or less on the SAT college entrance exam. The same year, it turned away 3,200 students who scored more than 1400 on the widely used exam. A perfect SAT score is 1600.

The report has fueled concerns about a 2-year-old shift in the university's policies that allows admissions officers to take into account personal factors, such as overcoming hardship, alongside academic achievements, in the consideration of every applicant. Moores and some other regents have said they worry that the policy may squeeze out some high-achieving students in favor of others who are far less qualified.

UC officials deny that is the case. They say that under the policy, known as comprehensive review, the academic quality of each incoming freshman class has improved. They have also emphasized that the role of the SAT in recent years has been diminished in UC admissions because UC officials consider it less reliable than other measures in predicting college success.

UC President Robert C. Dynes made clear Thursday that comprehensive review will remain the university's admissions policy.

"This is the right policy for a selective university in America today," he said. "And it is a policy adopted overwhelmingly by the regents."

Dynes, who was presiding over his first regents meeting, refrained from any public criticism of the board's chairman. But that was not the case for Moores' fellow regents.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a regent by virtue of his elected office, complained that the university must now "debunk" the notion that unqualified students are being admitted to UC and "are destined for failure."

Moores said his analysis was based on UC data and was produced after discussions with many university officials.

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