A review of “Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA.”
Every professor knows that you can’t prevent students from cheating. Every safeguard can be overcome. Only the ethical makeup of a student will prevent him from cheating. The same is true of a university.
Unfortunately UCLA had its own sense of ethics which not only made cheating ethical and mandatory, but also made covering up that cheating equally ethical and mandatory.
Tim Groseclose’s “Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA” exposes how the school dodged California’s ban on racial preferences. Groseclose, a professor of American Politics, saw the abuses up close while on the admissions oversight committee and his attempts to find the truth led him into a pitched battle with his own university.
Groseclose is not an opponent of affirmative action. Like his colleagues he believes in racial diversity and racial preferences. He did not however believe in breaking the law that had been made by Proposition 209 which banned racial preferences or in a UCLA admissions process that cheated even its own rules.
“Cheating” is a detailed and dizzying look at UCLA’s admissions process. The complexity of the system allows colleges to dodge even the most explicit bans on racial preferences. UCLA was already using personal stories of hardship as admissions criteria. Had white students benefited from a system that allowed “compelling personal stories” of overcoming trials in the ghetto to outweigh a lack of academic achievements, UCLA would have faced the mother of all civil rights lawsuits.
But that still wasn’t enough.
In a desperate drive for diversity, UCLA switched to a “holistic” process in which both the personal stories and the academic achievements were combined into a single score that “reflected the applicant’s full spectrum of achievement.”
More black readers were hired to help out while Asian readers were underrepresented. A process in which black students were repeatedly advantaged and given multiple chances worked to their benefit.
A Life Challenge Index increased admission chances for students who were single parents, poor or had gone to bad high schools. The graduation rate at UCLA is at 92%. For black men it’s at 74%, down from 84% in 2008, suggesting that UCLA’s attempts at working around affirmative action with socioeconomic metrics led them to bring in a class of minority students less capable of graduating than before.
As academic institutions used to know, accepting unqualified students doesn’t help them, it hurts them.
Every stage of the process led to further racial filtering and discrimination. The result was not diversity, but increasing admissions of African-American students at the expense of Asian students.
The holistic scores had been set up to give black students an advantage, but even that wasn’t good enough and more explicit racial preferences had to be piled on to achieve demographic targets.
26% of African-American students with a holistic score of 3.0 were admitted compared to 3% of North Asian students. 20% of African-American students with a holistic score of 3.5 were admitted compared to 1% of North Asian students.
UCLA’s own review process showed that a third of the black students admitted would not have qualified even based on the holistic scores. That was unsurprising since UCLA’s admission process had become so unselectively racist that black students were being accepted at a 43 percent rate while the rates for white and Asian students were at 15 and 18 percent.
Without the holistic approach however 9 percent more Asian students and 33 percent fewer black students would have been admitted. With it, the number of black students rose dramatically, but the average SAT score for African-American students fell 45 points.
Even UCLA’s Mare report showed that the final and supplemental reviews favored black over Asians students who were otherwise similarly qualified in both academic and life achievements. Instead of diversity, there was a racial rebalancing favoring some minorities at the expense of others.
The number of Native American and Latino students fell. The chance of admission for Vietnamese students tumbled from 28 to 21 percent.
This was the story that UCLA did not want told, not only because it was violating the law, but because numbers like these raise Asian opposition to affirmative action. The effort to overturn Proposition 209 ran into a roadblock from Asian voters worried that it would hurt their children and yet, as Groseclose demonstrates in “Cheating”, it’s impossible to stop unethical universities from cheating on race.
Opponents and supporters of affirmative action have noted that in the aftermath of a ban there would be an immediate fall in black and Latino enrollment, followed by a resurgence. This was accomplished through the use of structurally racial “race neutral” strategies intended to increase minority enrollment.
UCLA is unfortunately far from alone in gaming the system. It was merely copying Berkeley. In states where affirmative action was banned, universities replaced it with “creative” alternative strategies. Some, such as automatically admitting the top students in every high school class, an approach favored by Groseclose, are more meritocratic than others. But all the methods are backdoor affirmative action.
Diversity has become a more fundamental tenet of education than any other and “Cheating” provides an extensive recapitulation of how far colleges will go to preserve it. It’s difficult to stop unethical students from cheating. It’s even more difficult to stop unethical universities like UCLA from cheating.
The problem of affirmative action has become a problem of ethics and liberal lawlessness.
In “Cheating”, Tim Groseclose demonstrates that UCLA not only cheated, but that it lied about it. Six years after Groseclose began looking into UCLA’s racial enrollments, after studies, papers and reports were issued and now a book, UCLA is still determined to go on doing its end run around Proposition 209.
Federal and State civil rights investigators pore over businesses and schools searching for racially discriminatory conspiracies against African-Americans, but they have failed to find these conspiracies. Instead they have had to invent them and sue over disparate impact. But the vast majority of disparate impact claims are not the result of a calculated racial policy. Nor do investigators claim that they are.
However the disparate impact of covert affirmative action in colleges like UCLA is a calculated conspiracy and civil rights investigators won’t touch its blatant discriminatory impact on Asian students.
“Cheating” reveals the process UCLA used to engage in racially discriminatory admissions policies that had an adverse impact on every race except African-Americans. And it’s only one of many colleges that have been doing the same thing.
The greatest civil rights lawsuit of our generation would drag these racist policies out of the shadows and into the light.
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