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Regent Seeks Admissions Study

Chairman wants outside analysis of how UC deals with race

March 26, 2004|Rebecca Trounson and Peter Hong | Times Staff Writers

The chairman of the University of California Board of Regents alleged on Thursday that regents were being "kept in the dark" on important admissions questions and called for an independent analysis of how UC deals with race and other issues in admissions decisions.

In a letter to his fellow board members, Chairman John J. Moores said university administrators had failed to inform regents about several reports that he said would raise concerns about whether the admissions process violated state law, apparently by considering race and ethnicity.

"The UC administration has consistently withheld from the Regents the existence of several secret studies" about admissions at the university, Moores wrote in the four-page letter. He declined Thursday to discuss the letter or to offer specifics about his accusations.

A UC spokesman disputed Moores' charges.

"There are no secret studies," Michael Reese said. He said several admissions reports had been released recently to a committee of regents and others studying the university's policies in accepting applicants.

One such analysis, made public this month, showed that, despite a statewide ban on affirmative action, black and Latino applicants to UC campuses last year had been accepted for admission in numbers slightly higher than appeared warranted. UC officials said the pattern was strongest at UC Berkeley and UCLA, the system's two most selective campuses.

UC President Robert C. Dynes has said he is concerned about the apparent disparities. UC officials say they will continue to investigate what might be behind the pattern.

On Thursday, Reese said the investigation "is rigorous, still not complete and ... has not resolved all the questions many of us, including President Dynes, still have. I don't think that demonstrates bias."

Moores' letter came less than a week after his fellow regents took the unusual step of publicly repudiating his continuing challenges to the university's admissions policies.

The regents' chairman touched off debate throughout the university last fall by writing and releasing a report critical of UC Berkeley's admissions practices. The report fueled concerns about a 2-year-old shift in the university's policies that allowed admissions officers to consider personal factors, including hardship, alongside academic achievements in the consideration of every applicant.

Moores and fellow Regent Ward Connerly have said the policy could serve as a backdoor way for admissions officials to slip race back into the process after state voters banned affirmative action in 1996. UC officials have denied that.

This month, in an essay for Forbes magazine, Moores accused UC of discriminating against Asians and, more broadly, of "victimizing students, not just those unfairly denied admission," but many with low college entrance exam scores who were admitted and, he said, cannot compete at the university.

In his letter, Moores said the regents' rebuke had been inappropriate, and "an attempt to stifle further inquiry and discussion on the important issue of UC admission policy."

He asked that all studies and other information that bear on admissions be provided immediately to the regents, and asked for an outside firm to examine admissions data. Moores said certain UC officials, whom he did not name, "seem to have an agenda with respect to outcomes, rather than attempting to be objective in studying and interpreting the data."

Connerly, a frequent Moores ally on the board, said the letter had raised legitimate issues. "We should have been informed much earlier that these studies were underway and heard about their conclusions -- even preliminary ones," he said.

But other regents supported the administration.

"As far as I know, the UC administration has been forthcoming and honest in dealing with the Regents, including when dealing with matters related to admissions," Regent Tom Sayles said in a statement.

Regent Joanne Kozberg, who headed the admissions study group, also said UC officials had tried to be helpful in providing information about the university's complex admissions policies. "To my knowledge, there has been complete disclosure," she said.

But Moores' letter, Kozberg added, was "thoughtful and heartfelt. He obviously cares a great deal."

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