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April 29, 2010 10:00 AM Affirmative Reaction

By Daniel Luzer

Connerly.jpg

Ward Connerly, prominent conservative and former member of the University of California Board of Regents, is very annoyed, again. Connerly writes in Minding the Campus, the higher education blog of the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research that he’s losing respect for the regents for their failure to stand up for principle.

In the wake of a series of racially biased incidents at the University of California schools, some regents dare apologize for the incidents and suggest that maybe Cal schools aren’t terribly racially inclusive.

Connerly appears to have a particular ax to grind with regard to regent and Oakland attorney Eddie Island. As Connerly explains:

Somehow, and not surprisingly, the apology fest about “campus climate” veered into the issue of the number of blacks enrolled at all UC campuses. This was familiar terrain for Regent Eddie Island, whose singular focus as a regent seems to be the circumvention of the California Constitution and its prohibition against race preferences.
The cause of my growing disrespect for the board was the comment by Island that “it is our own standards and slavish adherence to grade point averages and SAT scores that have put us in this dilemma.” He continued, “We value those things higher than we value other human qualities that are just as important and that can make a contribution within the UC environment.”

Aside from Island’s apparent lack of respect for the sacred California constitution, Connerly is bothered because,

The University of California is regarded, indisputably, as one of our nation’s premier systems of higher education. In virtually every category, one or more of UC’s ten campuses ranks within the top ten nationwide. This has happened precisely because of UC’s “slavish adherence” to academic excellence, not because of other so-called “human qualities.”

Really? In fact the University of California considers a whole bunch of things when students apply to its schools. While California public colleges are prevented from considering race in admissions (thanks in large part to Ward Connerly) they actually conduct a 14-point comprehensive review of all applicants. Connerly worries that:

“Holistic admissions” enables universities to demand high academic performance for Asian and white kids while accepting lesser academic achievement for “minority” students based on their life’s experiences - community service, socioeconomic background, and other nonacademic factors.

So what? Most universities use holistic admissions. This may allow colleges to accepting “lesser academic achievement for minority students based on their life’s experiences,” but it also allows colleges to happily admit (and then educate) high schools with lesser academic achievement who are athletes, legacies, or a kid from Alaska who’s the first person in his family to go to college.

Connerly makes an interesting rhetorical point, but let’s stop pretending university admissions, now or ever, are some sort of pure reflection of scientific objectivity. Universities let students in based on the characteristics they want to develop in the university. Sometimes that’s SAT scores. Sometimes it’s rich parents. Sometimes it’s poor parents. And sometimes that’s ethnicity. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer