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2020 August 1

UC is implementing anti-Asian policies

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:58
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Two decisions made by the Regents of the University of California this year initially made no sense to me.

Eliminating SAT/ACT.

In January 2019, at the request of the President of the University of California, the Standardized Testing Task Force started studying whether the known disparities in outcome for SAT tests was hurting low-income students, first-in-family students, or students form underrepresented minorities (Hispanic, Black, or Native American) from gaining acceptance to UC.

Their report came out in January 2020 and is available at https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/underreview/sttf-report.pdf.

The report looked at the data very carefully and came to some surprising conclusions:

It is true that the racial mix of students admitted into the freshman class at UC is quite different from the racial mix of high school seniors from the same year. Consider the groups that UC collectively refers to as Underrepresented Minorities (URM): Latino, African-American students and Native American students. In 2017-18, these groups constituted 59.1% of high school seniors in California, but only 37.0%of UC admits among California residents.

The second question is whether this 22.1 percentage point gap arises due to UC admissions decisions. The Task Force considered this in detail. Figure 3C-7 shows that about one-quarter of the gap is due to the admissions decisions of the UC campuses, but the remaining three-quarters of the gap relates to outcomes that occur before UC admissions officers read files. The single biggest factor is that relatively few of the students in the three underrepresented racial/ethnic groups complete the A-G coursework that both UC and CSU require for students to become eligible to apply. The other key factors include differences in the rates of graduation from high school and in applying to UC.

The fact that admission decisions explain only about one-quarter of the disparity in racial mix of high school seniors and admitted UC freshmen is important, but a reasonable person could wonder whether this contribution, although relatively small, might indeed indicate bias of some sort against applicants from some groups relative to others in admissions itself. We will look into this in responses to some of the questions below.

So there is some imbalance in who gets admitted, but only about a quarter of that is due to the UC admissions decisions—and even less is due to the standardized tests:

To re-state this more simply, large inter-group differences in SAT scores do not translate into major differences across student groups in admission rates at UC. This is probably the most important finding the Task Force has made in its data analyses.

Relying more on high-school GPA after eliminating SAT scores is likely to hurt minority students, rather than help them:

Given the Task Force’s findings that the SAT scores are evaluated in a way that effectively renormalizes scores to take disadvantage into account, SAT scores do not appear to play a big role in differences in admission rates between disadvantaged and advantaged groups. Other admission factors play a role in reducing the share of disadvantaged groups that are selected in the admissions process (as well as in reducing the share of disadvantaged groups in the admissions pool). A prime example is high school GPA. The report shows that variations in GPA matter more than variations in SAT in explaining admission rates.

Of course, the Office of the President then proceeded to ignore the data and the report and push for eliminating the SAT, even knowing that doing so would hurt minority applicants.  They convinced the Regents to go along with this.  Why would they do this?  Were they so convinced of their prior beliefs that they ignored every evidence that contradicted them, or were the never interested in helping minority students in the first place, but just using them as an excuse for a policy that had an entirely different motive?

If it is not to assist the admission of under-represented minorities, then perhaps the point is to reduce the admissions of the group that has the highest average SAT scores—the Asian-Americans.

Asking to repeal Prop. 209

UCOP also persuaded the Regents to call for a repeal of Prop. 209, which had added the following text to the California constitution:

SEC. 31. (a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
(b) This section shall apply only to action taken after the section’s effective date.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex which are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as invalidating any court order or consent decree which is in force as of the effective date of this section.
(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting action which must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
(f) For the purposes of this section, ”state” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the state itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the state.
(g) The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of then-existing California antidiscrimination law.
(h) This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with federal law or the United States Constitution, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that federal law and the United States Constitution permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.

The reason was so that the University could re-institute racial preferences (which they refer to as Affirmative Action).  How badly are racial preferences needed to rebalance the student body?

According to https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/fall-enrollment-glance in Fall 2019, the undergraduate enrollment across all the UC campuses was

category ugrads@UC percentage of non-international
International 29754
Unknown 5855 2.98%
White 48433 24.66%
Asian/Pacific Islander 75676 38.54%
Hispanic/Latinx 55971 28.50%
Black 9371 4.77%
Native American 1065 0.54%

How does this compare with California population?  According to https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/CA, the California population consists of

category percentage UC%/population%
Unknown or multiple races 4% 0.75
White 36.5% 0.68
Asian/Pacific Islander 16% 2.41
Hispanic/Latinx 39.4% 0.72
Black 6.5% 0.73
Native American 1.6% 0.34

So all groups except Asian/Pacific Islander are underrepresented, and whites are more underrepresented than Blacks or Hispanics.  (The Native Americans are the most underrepresented—they have always been treated the worst by the American educational system.)

So the push for racial preferences clearly has a single target—reducing the representation of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Update 2020 Aug 4:  John W pointed me to statistics on the ethnic distribution of California high-school graduates from 2014 (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/ca-hs-pipeline), a somewhat better baseline to compare with because of the rapidly changing demographics of California.

category HS number HS % UC%/HS%
Unknown or multiple races 10,314 2.45% 1.22
White 120,855 28.66% 0.86
Asian/Pacific Islander 57,687 13.68% 2.82
Hispanic/Latinx 203,894 48.36% 0.59
Black 26,056 6.18% 0.77
Native American 2,830 0.67% 0.80

The adjusted numbers show underrepresentation of Hispanics, more overrepresentation of Asian-Americans, but whites and Native Americans are no longer showing strong underrepresentation.  The overall conclusion—that the target of racial preferences is predominantly Asian-Americans—is not really changed.

The whole point of both admissions policies being pushed this year is anti-Asian sentiment.  It is not to help the under-represented minorities, but to discriminate against Asian-Americans.

This interpretation makes perfect sense of both decisions.  UCOP and the Regents knew that they couldn’t get away with saying that they wanted to reduce the admission of Asian-Americans, nor that the group they wanted to help was the white students, so they had to pretend that they were helping the under-represented minorities.

They didn’t care what the conclusion of the STTF report was—they already knew that SAT scores helped Asian-Americans, and they did not care what happened to the under-represented minorities.  They were hoping for a fig leaf to cover their naked anti-Asian attitudes and were no doubt disappointed that the data did not provide them one.

The whole mess looks a lot like the biased admissions of the 1950’s, when various non-academic criteria were added by many elite universities, in order to exclude the Jewish students who were performing the best on all the academic criteria.  We are seeing the same game being played out today, with Asian-American students in the role of the Jewish students.

 

7 Comments »

  1. Hi Kevin

    Nicely written and argued!

    Cheers

    Alan

    Comment by alanone1 — 2020 August 2 @ 00:59 | Reply

    • The report itself is well worth reading—there is a lot of material there that I didn’t include (like that HSGPA is less predictive of UC performance than SAT scores and that eliminating SAT scores will hurt African-American and Native American students’ chances of admission).

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2020 August 2 @ 07:49 | Reply

  2. You probably want to compare to California high school graduates, not the population as a whole due to different age structures.

    Here is 2014 data: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/ca-hs-pipeline

    Comment by John w — 2020 August 3 @ 23:18 | Reply

    • I agree—I had not been able to find data on the HS graduation population structure (I’d not looked as far back as 2014, nor had I thought to search the UC websites). I have added that baseline also. It changes the picture a little (Hispanics are clearly underrepresented, and whites clearly not), but if anything the case is even stronger that the primary target of re-instituting racial preferences is Asian-Americans.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2020 August 4 @ 08:49 | Reply

  3. All this is possibly true.
    Yet, I don’t think ( and maybe naively) , that the regents and office of the president are that organized against what we call Asians.

    I do believe that they want to restart the old racial advocacy program that was mourned by many when it went away.
    That could alternately explain the desire to get rid of the 209 rules, a different explanation, more bureaucracy driven than unfair intentionally

    My personal impression of the Asian presence on the campus is stark.
    As an alumni from the 70s, I was surprised at the look of the Santa Cruz student body and campus now.

    Personally I miss the pole buildings/structure/vibe, but concrete is all the rage after 89…..but the point is, it is all different–
    I took my nephew up there some years back to promote his going to school in Santa Cruz (cause we like being near him), and his comment was, “everyone i see is Asian”.
    He was very put off by that.
    Yet, he was right, groups of Asian girls all dressed up and wearing heels (!) , this dominated the social image, our main visual, not what I expected.

    The nephew later chose Notre Dame over UCSC, and then did his law degree grad work at U C Davis.
    Neither of those two campus’ gave me the sense of predominant Asian population.
    Predominant at Notre Dame was Catholic stuff, no doubt, but that is why some of the students go there .
    So, maybe it’s a campus by campus thing too, another possibility.

    Rick

    Comment by richard rebman — 2020 August 4 @ 14:32 | Reply

    • The numbers here are UC-wide. I believe that UCSC is less Asian and more Hispanic than the other campuses (except Merced, which is very heavily Hispanic). I’ll have to look up the numbers.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2020 August 4 @ 15:48 | Reply

  4. I see.
    Well, I’m going off personal experiences and anecdotal evidence, not numbers.
    On that note, Holly once had a hispanic helper at the concrete company who quit and who I later hired for a while, good guy,

    He had been accepted to UC with I think recommendations or approval for UCSC and Merced,
    and maybe riverside, all of which seem strongly hispanic in student body by numbers, certainly a strong community presence.

    Poor lad finally left here, after not finding success at affordable housing off campus, and being surprised at the difference here in parking a car
    on campus versus some other places he had lived,
    I think he had settled in Watsonville and was commuting up, he was flustered by it all.
    I think he did end up at Merced.
    Having grown up in Orange County and going to school with hispanics, I liked the family focus of the culture overall, lot of goodness and niceness,
    when I would stop by a hispanic friend’s house after school there were often many “:uncles” staying there,
    basically illegals who were working the fields off hwy 39. Orange county had lots of agriculture back then.

    These people did not speak english nor did I speak spanish, but we all smiled at each other and they always fed me, whoever
    was there would cook you up a burrito or tamale or a plate of something, always nice, always warm.
    Nothing complicated, just felt good. the old days……that all felt good.
    Sometimes a cousin from East LA would show up in a stolen car, for sale cheap,
    I had trouble wrapping my head around that detail of the culture however.

    And yet, the actions of trying to fix it all, designing and sculpting a student body profile can lead to complications and is certainly questionable.

    Comment by richard rebman — 2020 August 7 @ 10:53 | Reply


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