A UCLA professor and a new Asian American organization are suing the University of California for withholding records that could expose the system’s racial bias against Asian Americans in undergraduate admissions.
Professor Richard Sander, a known critic of affirmative action, and the Asian American Community Services Center (AACSC) believe that the UC system is violating Proposition 209, a state initiative passed in 1996 that prohibits public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race.
The system, which has been race-neutral since 1998, denied a request for records showing academic and socioeconomic characteristics of students who applied and enrolled in the last 12 years, claiming that it does not have the “specific data set.”
Such data are collected and maintained by the system’s Regents, its governing board composed of 26 members.
Speaking to The College Fix, Sander argued that the same kind of data “was provided to us 10 years ago.” His request in August 2017 asked to “bring the dataset current, adding a few new related variables to each type of data sought.”
In October, the AACSC sought the data Sanders had received in 2008 but to no avail. At the time, UC’s denial “appeared to be copied and pasted in large measure from the response denying Sander’s data requests.”
“The Regents even refused to provide AACSC with the exact data fields that it had previously provided to Sander,” the suit said. “The stonewalling, misdirection, filibustering, and ultimate refusal to provide information demonstrates the Regents’ deep and pervasive lack of transparency.”
Sander believes that the UC system discriminates against Asian Americans based on a 2014 report, which reviewed UCLA’s admissions from Fall 2007 to Fall 2011.
Looking at the applicants’ race and identifying successful admissions under standard criteria, the report found that “Whites, African Americans, and Latinos are overrepresented among those admitted and Asian American applicants are underrepresented.”
Based on the “adjusted disparity,” there were 1,371 fewer Asian-American admissions and an excess of 676 Black, 237 Latino and 179 White students.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Asian Americans have remained the largest ethnic group admitted across the UC system since 2010. The group also has the highest freshman admission rate, recording 69% last fall above Whites (59%), Latinos (53%) and Blacks (45%).
Last year, Asian Americans made up 29.1% of UC admissions, ahead of Latinos (23.2%), Whites (22.8%) and Blacks (4.15%). The figures are higher at more competitive campuses, with Asian Americans making up 40% at Berkeley, 35.5% at Los Angeles, 36.5% at Irvine and 35.7% at San Diego.
In its defense, the UC system initially contended that gathering the data is costly, later pointing out that it has no legal obligation to disclose. The plaintiffs claimed that they already offered to pay for the data, but UC said that it “would not fully alleviate the burden imposed on staff.”
“We just want to be treated fairly,” AACSC founder George Shen told the LA Times. “There is an explicit American promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded. It seems to us right now that Asians in general not only are not being rewarded but are being penalized for playing this game too well.”