UCSD Guardian Editorial: Start at the Source for Campus Harmony
by: The Editorial Board
The Guardian (UCSD), 2/25/10
The question of whether we should enforce affirmative action at the University of California — one of the most contentious and drawn-out issues of our generation — has never been more relevant.
Yesterday, approximately 400 students from the Southern California area joined in a Black Student Union-led protest to address racism on campus. They asked Chancellor Marye Anne Fox to comply with a list of demands that would increase outreach efforts on campus, expressing hurt and alienation over the frat-affiliated “Compton Cookout” party and the racial slur made on Koala TV last Thursday.
Though BSU is correct in believing it must attack underrepresentation by way of changed policy, not all of their demands are fiscally feasible. There’s only so much funding Chancellor Fox can put aside for a resource center or an art space after systemwide cuts have left us with mere scraps of an already depleted budget. However, we can more realistically attack the problem at its source by immediately tweaking our admissions process.
Of course, it isn’t legal to consider race in admissions just yet. But, thanks to the actions of student-based coalition “By Any Means Necessary,” that might change. Earlier this month, BAMN filed a class-action lawsuit to overturn Proposition 209 — the 1996 law that banned affirmative action at all California public universities. According to the organization, because of the precedent set by 2003 Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger — which declared affirmative action both necessary and legal — BAMN has a good chance of overturning Prop. 209.
We hope that’s the case, and urge students to funnel whatever energy they have after parading Price Center’s perimeters this year and channel it into helping level the playing field at a legislative level.
The fewer minority students there are at UCSD, the more other students will think events like the Cookout are no big deal. Without a challenge to the privileged point of view, the more graduates we release to the world without a trace of cultural sensitivity.
While we’re waiting on BAMN’s lawsuit, however, we recommend that the university do what it can within its limitations. Currently, all UC campuses save UCLA and UC Berkeley make admissions decisions based on a comprehensive system that awards each applicant a certain number of points according to his or her academic record, economic status and personal achievements. At UCSD specifically, an applicant’s academic record makes up for 74 percent of his or her score — meaning those who don’t earn enough points based on their GPA or SAT scores won’t even get a chance to be reviewed for personal achievements.
The holistic review that UCLA and Berkeley use, however, avoids forcing a value on any one aspect of an application, and assesses candidates based on all factors of their application. Even if, say, an applicant’s academic SAT score is low because he couldn’t afford a prep course or find time to study while helping his parents pay the bills, his evaluators would still be able to consider him based on other merits. Accordingly, UCLA and Berkeley have more than double, almost triple, our 1.3 percent of black students.
And let’s face it. The way we deal with everyday challenges almost always says more about our ability to learn and adapt to difficult situations (i.e. blazing through with two weeks of midterms on top of a part-time job) than the grade you weaseled out in AP History.
It’s true that such a prestigious institution of higher learning as UCSD should value academic record very highly in the admissions process. But if you really think about it, no matter how many worksheets on chemical titration you filled out in high school, you probably don’t remember any of it now. Your high-school resume often has more to do with the resources and encouragement you received — opportunities far from equal in California’s fund-biased education system.
So, we hope that Associate Vice Chancellor of Admissions Mae Brown means it when she says that her department will be launching a pilot program incorporating holistic review next year. Far more than punishing frat boys or student media, a new system would foster campus diversity and, therefore, awareness.
Our student population is in a state of obvious disproportionality — one for which no safe space nor free tutoring session can compensate. Starting-line coexistance is the only answer. If UCSD were to eventually incorporate a form of affirmative action into its admissions process, should Prop. 209 be overturned, the holistic system would be more likely to ensure that applicants aren’t simply receiving points for race, in isolation from experience. Rather, race could be considered within the context of any other strengths or weaknesses, advantages or disadvantage.