UCLA’s ‘Holistic’ Admissions Unfair

The current admissions procedure of UC Los Angeles is being reevaluated. In September, UCLA announced that they are planning to take a more rounded approach to the admissions process. The new procedures are similar to those taken by UC Berkeley and Ivy League campuses.
Disadvantaged African-American students might have something to gain now that UCLA is considering a more ‘holistic’ approach to their admission process, taking personal experiences into account and focusing less on grades and test scores.
Presently, applications are reviewed in parts and admission protocol suggests that no single person on the application committee reads an entire application. Applications are instead divided into sections and read by several people. Those who read and score an application have knowledge of only one of the following: academic review, personal achievements or life challenges. Each section is scored separately, without knowledge of any of the other sections. After evaluating a section, a student receives a score, and at the end of reviewing the application, the scores from each section are tallied. The score that the student receives determines acceptance to the university.
The reader who reviews grades, test scores and high school curricula doesn’t know about extracurricular activities, employment, community service or awards. The reader who considers socioeconomic status, family and education levels is not exposed to the rest of the application.
UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams and numerous faculty leaders support the new guidelines that would affect students who will be completing their college applications this fall. The modifications to admissions would be the most dramatic change to admissions at UCLA in years.
Considering that trends of acceptance demonstrate a shocking decline in black enrollment at UCLA, it is clear that there is a serious problem. In June, for instance, admission numbers implied that less than two percent of the freshman class likely to enroll at UCLA for the fall 2006 quarter were African-Americans.
Therefore, it was reasonable that the African-American community would take issue with such a decline in black admission, reportedly the largest since 1973.
However, the new strategies in admission are not necessarily in accord with legislation.
In particular, critics are worried about noncompliance with Proposition 209, which prohibits public colleges and universities in California from considering race in the admissions process.
The idea of a holistic approach is great, but what if one section is scrutinized more than the others? What if an applicant is favored based on his essay and a personal situation that has a lot to do with his race? The reader might be tempted to admit a student based on socioeconomic status or race, thereby introducing favoritism into the new admission system. Without the point system, more biases are introduced and applicants are not admitted objectively.
UCLA stated that their changes will comply with Proposition 209 and are aiming to make changes at the university for the better and create a more well-rounded student body.
Holistic admission is starting to sound a lot like affirmative action, and while I would like to support disadvantaged students, it is troubling that other students who might be more qualified will be turned away from undergraduate and graduate programs at UCLA.
It is clear that there needs to be a more diverse student body, but skin color and gender should not influence acceptance to universities. That is not to say that there does not need to be more outreach to students who have had an uphill battle all their lives.
Programs like the Education Opportunity Program should continue to reach out to economically lacking students, and hopefully there can be more programs of its kind.
Instead of using this new controversial holistic approach, more outreach to disadvantaged students before they apply to college will ensure their success.
This will help to guarantee that all students, regardless of race, are well aware of requirements and receive the boost they need without placing other students at a disadvantage.

Reut Cohen is a third-year English major. She can be reached at rrcohen@uci.edu.