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Grading UC's admissions policy

September 13, 2008

Re "UCLA's process rights a wrong," Opinion, Sept. 7

As a 1971 graduate of the UCLA School of Engineering, I read with disgust the weak-minded and stale arguments of Darnell M. Hunt in support of UCLA's current attempt to circumvent Proposition 209 with a fraud called the "holistic" admissions policy.

Minorities deserve an opportunity to compete in an environment in which they can succeed -- not one in which they start out with a built-in academic disadvantage.

Trying to redefine and reinvent the admissions rules is seen by all as a transparent effort to bypass current law. Is this what we want to teach minorities: that the way to achieve your goals is to break the law?

Clyde Harkins

Newport Beach

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Re "How UC is rigging the admissions process," Opinion, Sept. 7

Heather Mac Donald's article contains many misleading statements. I served on the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) from 1999-2005.

First, BOARS was always respectful of the law, including Proposition 209. Had it been otherwise, I would have resigned from the committee, as I am a staunch defender of meritocracy as the primary goal of admissions.

Second, administrators do not make admissions policy; faculty do. Any admissions policy approved by BOARS must be approved by the Academic Senate of all 10 campuses, then by the UC Systemwide Academic Senate and finally by the UC Regents.

Third, African American enrollment at my campus, UC Riverside, during my tenure on this committee had been on an increase. To equate UC Riverside with the Cal State system further illustrates the author's misunderstanding of UC governance.

Though it is true that African American students are under-represented at UCLA and Berkeley, these two campuses compete with the top private institutions, which are free to determine their own admissions criteria and make offers that cannot be matched by a public institution. This raises another issue for another time.

Dennis D. Focht

Professor Emeritus

Department of Plant

Pathology and Microbiology

UC Riverside

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Mac Donald suggests that UCLA's warped racial mix of students can be traced to our elementary and high schools and to our homes, not to a flawed admissions system.

Given UCLA's unfruitful effort to enhance diversity, it is time for the university to attack the root of the problem by actively assisting more disadvantaged pre-college students on the path to a college education.

Already, UCLA's charitable UniCamp inspires children from low-income families to envision brighter futures by sending them, along with student volunteers, to its residential outdoor summer camp. Still, UniCamp is a token effort in the big picture. If UCLA were to build year-round programs within selected schools, we all might be surprised to see a more favorable racial balance among our accepted college students.

UCLA is involved in our communities -- it provides healthcare via direct, community-based clinics; the Bruin athletic department devotes major efforts to the recruitment of gifted high school athletes; and UCLA Extension offers career-oriented and personal-interest classes for working adults. Why can't the same approach work to improve the racial diversity among UCLA's students?

Sadly, remedial programs lack the element of profit that is associated with many of UCLA's links with the community. Until the university finds funds to support greater involvement with disadvantaged pre-college students, student diversity at UCLA is only a dream.

William K. Solberg

Los Angeles

The writer is a former professor of dentistry at UCLA.

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