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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

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 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, 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 (, 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.


2020 April 15

Bureaucracy at its best

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:57
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My pessimism about University bureaucracy in times of crisis has been dealt a serious blow!

Our department had been asked by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) to create a new bachelor’s program, with a fairly short timeline—in February they asked us to create the new program and have the proposal to them before the end of Spring quarter.  Later they moved the deadline up to April 22, which is only the 4th week of the quarter.

My fellow undergrad director and I worked hard to get a program designed, approved by the faculty, and with approval from all the departments offering courses that we were planning to require.  The hardest part was convincing the biology department to let students take the first biology course, even though it is currently required of every bio-related major on campus and has no restrictions on who can take it.

Because I knew we were on a tight timeline, I entered the proposal directly into the database that CEP uses for evaluating programs and which the Registrar’s office uses for preparing catalog copy.  After I had done all that, I attached a cover letter and all the stakeholder approvals, and I sent the proposal up the pipeline to the next level of approval.

At that point I ran into the sort of petty bureaucracy I’ve come to associate with the University:  the proposal was not permitted to go forward, because it was in the database format and not in the format expected of a new-program proposal.  The usual process (brand-new since I last created a new program a couple of years ago) requires a proposal in PDF format with standardized headings. After the proposal is approved, then it all is expected to be redone in the format that I had already done it in.  Why the administrators can’t use the same format as the Academic Senate Committee and the Registrar is one of those mysteries best not thought too hard about.

I was not about waste my sabbatical time (remember, I’m on sabbatical now) running in circles rewriting and cutting-and-pasting to satisfy a bureaucratic craving for redundant effort, and I let several people know about it.  I was ready to wash my hands of the whole thing and tell CEP that I’d done my best, but the bureaucracy had thwarted our department’s attempt to comply.

Then a member of the school staff (the same one who had pointed out the “need” for a specific format) worked late hours reformatting the proposal (asking me just for a few missing pieces over the weekend), getting the proposal finished by Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, both the dean and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs approved the proposal, freeing it to go forward to the CEP and the Committee on Planning and Budget (CPB).  This is record-breakingly fast work—the last time I needed something from the dean it took me 6 weeks just to get an appointment!

I expect that both CEP and CPB will approve the program—the chair of CEP has already seen and commented unofficially on the proposal (even helped me deal with the biology department) and there are no resources being requested, so CPB has nothing to shoot down.  All the courses in the program are ones that are already taught, and increasing capacity in the courses can be handled by the usual allocation of Temporary Academic Staffing funds for teaching assistants and lecturers, which are allocated to departments based on enrollments.

It usually takes a year or more to create a new bachelor’s program at UCSC (grad programs take much longer, because they need to be approved systemwide), so if we get this one done in 3 months  from first idea of the program to final approval, it will probably set a new record.  (I exaggerate a little—the idea for some sort of lighter-weight program has been kicking around for about a decade, but no one had given much serious thought to the details until this February.)

In any case, my pessimism about university bureaucracy has taken a serious hit—it may not recover before I retire in 14½ months.

2018 December 17

Changes in student populations

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:14
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There has been a lot of discussion at Inside Higher Education (and other higher-education media sites) lately about colleges failing because of enrollment difficulties due to the declining number of high-school graduates.

I think that this discussion has been colored largely by strongly regional phenomena.  A report by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the Northeast and Midwest are dropping in K–12 students, but the West and South are increasing.  Overall, the K–12 population is growing, though very slowly: projected growth is 0.18% a year, while past growth has been about 0.22% a year. So the story should not be of shrinking numbers of students for college, but a shift in where the students are coming from.  We may indeed have an oversupply of colleges in New England, with a shortage in the South and West.

Even more strongly, the report shows a shift in racial/ethnic demographics of the K–12 population, with a strong growth in Hispanic students (1.3% a year) and a shrinkage in white students (-0.5%/year).  The Asian/Pacific Islander category is expected to grow strongly also (1.4%/year), but black student population should remain fairly flat.  I wonder how much of the panic about colleges not being able to get students is due to the colleges marketing only to white students, who formed their traditional core, and not to the growing numbers of Hispanic students.

For projected number of high-school graduates, the racial shift is even stronger: White -0.7%/year, Black +1.2%/year, Hispanic  +1.9%/year, Asian/Pacific Islander +1.2%/year.

UCSC, where I teach, is bursting at the seams with far more students than we have the facilities for, with no signs that demand is shrinking.  UCSC qualifies as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with about 26% of students being Hispanic, and UCSC also has a fairly large Asian enrollment (again, about 26%). Source:

I wonder how much of the discussion of the problem of shrinking enrollment in colleges is due to regional blinders and how much is due to racial blinders.

2016 September 19

Coast Starlight, college train

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:49
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The Coast Starlight train, which my son just took to return to UCSB, could reasonably be called the “college train” because of the number of large universities along its route. I’m really surprised that Amtrak does not do more marketing of the train to college students and their parents. They do have a 15% discount for students aged 13–25, no longer needing a special “student advantage” card, but marketing the Coast Starlight route still seems to be aimed mainly at summer tourists.

Here is a list of the stops on the Coast Starlight, and some of the nearby colleges and universities (found using Google Maps), with times by public transit from the Amtrak stop to the college. The listing of colleges is not intended to be complete, nor to be recommendations for the colleges—I just tried to pick a few of the colleges that I thought might attract students from far enough away to generate Amtrak customers.

I relied on Google Maps for transit timings, but did not attempt to synchronize to the Coast Starlight schedule—some of the connections may be awful.  You don’t want to rely on a tight connection to Amtrak, though, as the Coast Starlight is often an hour or more late. Many of these universities are close enough to the Amtrak stations that a taxi ride or Uber from the stations to campus would be a reasonable cost—still cheaper than flying in most cases.  My son took public transportation from Santa Cruz to the Amtrak station in San Jose, but got an Uber ride from the Santa Barbara station to UCSB, to save hauling his luggage to the bus station there.

(Note: Greyhound is often cheaper and faster than Amtrak, but it is a lot less comfortable. BoltBus and other private bus services might also be worth checking.)

Seattle, WA

University of Washington is 35–55 minutes from SEA; Seattle University is 25–35 minutes; Antioch University Seattle, 19–22 minutes;

Tacoma, WA

University of Washington, Tacoma is 10 minutes from TAC; University of Puget Sound, 47 minutes

Olympia-Lacey, WA

The Evergreen State College is 1:24–1:40 from OLW.

Centralia, WA

Kelso-Longview, WA

Vancouver, WA

Washington State University Vancouver is 1:06–1:27 from VAN.

Portland, OR

Reed College, 15 minutes from PDX; Concordia University, 28 minutes; Multnomah University, 34–38 minutes; University of Portland, 13 minutes; University of Western States, 1:04–1:07; Lewis and Clarke College, 1:04–1:08; Pacific University, Forest Grove, 1:37–1:50.

Salem, OR

Willamette University, 6 minutes from SLM (10 minutes on foot);Western Oregon University, 0:58–1:40; Corban University, 57 minutes; Northwest University Salem, 0:49–1:30; George Fox University: Salem 0:44–1:26.

Albany, OR

Oregon State University, 0:33–1:38 from ALY.

Eugene-Springfield, OR

University of Oregon, 23 minutes from EUG, 31 minutes walking.

Chemult, OR

Klamath Falls, OR

Oregon Institute of Technology, 21–25 minutes from KFS; Southern Oregon University (Ashland) 2:44.

Dunsmuir, CA (Mt. Shasta)

Redding, CA

Chico, CA

CSU Chico, 13 minutes from CIC.

Sacramento, CA

CSU Sacramento, 37–41 minutes from SAC.

Davis, CA

UC Davis 27–33 minutes from DAV.

Martinez, CA

Cal Maritime, 1:27–2:30 from MTZ

Emeryville, CA

(Although Emeryville is closer to UCB than Oakland is, transit is better from Oakland.)

Oakland, CA–Jack London Square

UCB 37–59 minutes from OKJ; Mills College, 47–55 minutes; SFSU 0:56–1:03; CSU East Bay (Concord) 1:30

San Jose, CA (Caltrain)

San Jose State 11–14 minutes from SJC; Santa Clara University, 7–26 minutes; Stanford, 0:46–1:27; UCSC, 1:34–1:55

Salinas, CA

CSU Monterey Bay, 23 minutes from SNS.

Paso Robles, CA

San Luis Obispo, CA (Morro Bay)

Cal Poly, 17–24 minutes from SLO.

Santa Barbara, CA

UCSB, 41–55 minutes from SBA.

Oxnard, CA

CSU Channel Islands is nearby (11 miles), but Google Maps can’t find any public transit—the Vista bus is 25 minutes (perhaps Google Maps is missing the VCTC transit information).

Simi Valley, CA

CSU Northridge, 44–56 minutes from SIM.

Van Nuys, CA–Amtrak Station

CSU Northridge, 42–44 minutes from VNC; American Jewish University 0:55–1:09; Pepperdine 2:00–3:00

Burbank-Bob Hope Airport, CA

Woodbury University, 22–35 minutes from BUR;

Los Angeles, CA

Cal State LA, 19–31 minutes from LAX; Caltech 48–60 minutes; CSU Dominguez Hills 1:03–1:09; CSU Fullerton 1:06–1:15; UCLA 1:14–1:45; Claremont Colleges (Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer, …) 1:20–2:00; CSU Long Beach 1:41–2:07; Cal Poly Pomona 1:47–2:06

2016 September 4

The Great Mistake by Christopher Newfield

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:42
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Johns Hopkins University Press has announced pre-orders for Chris Newfield’s new book, The Great Mistake:

The Great Mistake

How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them

Christopher Newfield

In The Great Mistake, Newfield asks how we can fix higher education, given the damage done by private-sector models. The current accepted wisdom—that to succeed, universities should be more like businesses—is dead wrong. Newfield combines firsthand experience with expert analysis to show that private funding and private-sector methods cannot replace public funding or improve efficiency, arguing that business-minded practices have increased costs and gravely damaged the university’s value to society.

The book should ship in October 2016.

I’ve been reading his blog Remaking the University for quite some time, and I’ve found that he has intelligent things to say about how public universities are funded. I’m not sure I’d want to read a 448-page book on the subject with very few illustrations (2 halftones, 33 charts), but people who are interested in what has happened to make public universities so unaffordable in the past decade or two should read at least some of his writing.

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