Affirmative Backdooring - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Affirmative Backdooring

“Anyone not paying close attention could easily have missed the news that minority admissions to the University of California system, the nation’s largest, have surpassed what they were before UC banned racial preferences five years ago,” editorialized the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

This is Ward Connerly’s “vindication,” says the Journal. “Five years ago, when public pressure forced university officials to cease factoring race and ethnicity into the admissions process, liberal defenders of group preferences issued dire warnings. Minorities, they insisted, could not survive a system that wasn’t tilted in their favor. Ending affirmative action would ‘turn back the clock’ and erase decades of academic gains, particularly for blacks.

“Ward Connerly, the UC regent who led efforts to abolish the old admissions system, is familiar enough with these doomsayings. Now he can simply point to the numbers. ‘I don’t mean to gloat, but I told you so,’ Mr. Connerly told the Associated Press last week. ‘We’ve been saying for a long time that these kids don’t need any special treatment to get into the UC system. They just need to work hard, get fair treatment and have confidence in themselves. The rest will take care of itself.'”

The Journal’s editorial rightly notes that minorities can succeed without racial preferences. But its interpretation of the numbers fails to take into account the UC system’s backdooring of affirmative action since 1997.

The UC’s initial response to the 1997 ban on racial preferences was to ignore it. But that didn’t work, because an irate Pete Wilson threatened to fire UC President Richard Atkinson if he didn’t implement it. Atkinson reluctantly did, but then proceeded to search for ways to lower standards and ratchet up race-and-ethnicity based ‘outreach’ so that de facto affirmative action could continue.

Governor Gray Davis has also done his part to backdoor racial preferences. He devised an affirmative-action-by-other-means program, which was installed this year, that guarantees admission to a UC school to any student who graduates in the top 4% of his class, no matter how academically sloppy the high school.

“It would no longer matter what school you attend. It would only matter if you excel at the school you attended,” said Davis when he proposed the program. One kid, upon hearing of this egalitarian handout, told the press, “I think there will be a lot of transferring to where there isn’t a whole lot of competition. [Students] will just work the system.”

Davis, reports the Los Angeles Times, recently attributed the bolstered minority UC admissions to his program. He said it required UC schools to accept more students — “UC admitted 46,130 California high school seniors, a 10.4% rise from last year,” reports the Times — and it led to “significant increases in students from rural areas and underrepresented minorities.”

Dennis Galligani, UC’s associate vice president for student academic services, acknowledges that much of its outreach is aimed at certain minorities and ethnic groups. Galligani, reports the Times, “said that in the past two years, the university has spent more than $250 million annually to help minority and underprivileged students meet admissions standards. ‘Certainly we would like to believe the investment made in our outreach efforts is paying off.’ Galligani said.”

Atkinson and the UC regents hope to weaken standards even more in the near future. The SATs are “unfair” to minorities, says Atkinson, who seeks to abolish them altogether as an element of the admissions criteria. The UC system is moving toward “holistic” criteria for admissions. Applicants will be rated according to a “personal achievement score,” which prizes not academic achievements but accidents, such as socio-economic background.

What the Journal calls a “remarkable achievement” is nothing more than a switch from overt affirmative action to covert affirmative action. Pulling minorities up in the Golden State still means pulling standards down.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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