Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2001 / 13 Kislev, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
Admissions and omissions
THE University of California once again is fiddling with its admissions policies. UC used to admit 50 percent to 75 percent of students based on academic scores alone, then admit the rest of students based on scores and personal factors. The new policy, called "comprehensive review" and approved by regents this month, allows universities to admit all students based on academic and personal information, such as how students have dealt with adversity and the content of their application essays.
UC spokesman Brad Hayward explained, "We believe it makes more sense to evaluate all students on the same criteria." The old system, he added, entailed "closing one eye to look at one group of students, then opening it to look at the rest of the students"
My fear is that the new policy is one that uses both eyes, but they are peering through bad glasses.
As usual, the university wants the public to know that the new policy doesn't change admissions all that much. (Which makes you wonder why regents bothered to vote for a change in the middle of the application process.) To qualify for UC, students still will have to score in their own schools' top 4 percent, or the top 12.5 percent statewide; the new policy would affect which campuses admit which students.
Calvin Moore of the UC Berkeley faculty admissions committee figures that 96 percent of Berkeley applicants accepted under the old system would get in under the new one.
Who are those 4 percent who won't get in? UCLA assistant vice chancellor Tom Lifka told the Los Angeles Times, "Some of the students who are in the very top academically, if they have low personal achievement scores, are not going to get in."
Which sounds like dumbing down to me. It makes you wonder: If academics don't value academics, who will?
Or as dissenting UC Regent Sue Johnson told the Daily Californian: "I really believe that by not having measurable objective criteria, (we) step away from academic rigor. Comprehensive review gives rise to doubt and confusion. It's overly ambiguous."
No, no, UC says. The new system will allow UC to admit more students with drive and leadership ability. By looking at the students' personal statements and other information -- UC Chancellor Richard Atkinson said he wants admissions to be more "holistic" -- UC can find more diamonds in the rough. (The new policy also would make it harder for students from top high schools to get in if a university feels the student didn't challenge himself sufficiently.)
Jonathan Reider, director of college counseling at S.F. University High School, has a more positive than negative take on the new policy. Yet, he noted, that the problem with admitting students by relying more heavily on essays is that, from what he hears from UC staffers, "They're not interested in the quality of writing."
Indeed, a UC missive tells students, "Overall, correct grammar, spelling and sentence construction can contribute to a good personal statement, though we do not evaluate essays on those specific factors." It's one thing to overlook split predicates, but UC basically has announced that California's top schools will forgive an ungrammatical essay.
A Berkeley professor told me essays are bad indicators because there's no way to know who really wrote them -- Moore himself said he expects adults to vet those essays -- and admissions officers can't tell what biographical information is true, exaggerated or even fabricated.
There's also a real danger that personal essays could turn into "Queen for a Day," that old TV show on which women competed as to whose hardships most merited a coveted prize.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, you could say accepting students based on SAT scores and GPAs is the worst way to cull a student body, except it's better than all the others. Private universities have the staff to look at references and other data, but UC has to make faster judgments.
The choice, then, is objective data or, as one wag put it, "squishy judgments made by people who are committed to a particular view of the university as a political instrument." Given that choice, I trust the numbers
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
11/26/01Guns and abayas
11/21/01 Depraved minds think alike
11/19/01 Guilty, a la carte
11/14/01 Interpreting the entrails of Election 2000
11/12/01 Life and liberty
11/09/01 Safety is as safety does
11/07/01 More hot air on global warming
11/05/01 Bumped Pakistani's molehill
11/01/01 Freedom snuffed out
10/29/01 Give war a chance
10/26/01 Airline bill needs liftoff
10/22/01 The Riordan Principle
10/19/01 Before America gets tired of the war on terrorism
10/17/01 Patriot games
10/15/01 I was a 'McCainiac,' and I have seen the light
10/12/01 University of Censorship's fall semester
10/11/01 Poor little rich boy, Osama
10/07/01 Don't feed Israel to the beast
10/05/01: bin Laden is not our Frankenstein monster
10/04/01: Where no man has gone before
09/26/01: Who's bloodthirsty?
09/26/01: What's to understand?
09/20/01: Barbara Lee's line in the sand
09/14/01: You gotta love this country
09/13/01: ENTER TERROR
09/11/01: You can't clone ethics
09/06/01: NOW's goal: equal rights for women without equal responsibility
08/30/01: What's love got to do with it?
08/24/01: A clean, well-lighted place for junkies
08/20/01: Bush should stand up for justice
08/08/01: Don't give Peace (Dept). a chance
08/03/01: Lose a kid, pass a law
08/01/01: Welcome to France, killers
07/30/01: Why it's easy being green (in Europe)
07/26/01: If disabled means expendable
07/23/01: Condit should not resign
07/18/01: Feinstein should learn her limit
07/16/01: A drought of common sense
07/13/01: The catalog has no clothes
07/05/01: It's Bush against the planet
07/03/01: The man who would be guv
06/29/01: Wheeled, wired and free
06/27/01: O, fearful new world
06/25/01: End HMO horrors
06/21/01: Either they're dishonest or clueless
06/18/01: Freedom is a puff of smoke
06/15/01: In praise of going heavy: Yes, you can take it all
06/13/01: McVeigh: 'Unbowed' maybe, but dead for sure
06/11/01: Gumby strikes back
06/08/01: Los Angeles' last white mayor?
06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
05/24/01: Of puppies, kittens and huge credit-card debts
05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
05/09/01: DA mayor's disappointing legacy
05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
04/12/01: White House and the green myth
04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
04/04/01: Bush bashers don't know squat
04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
03/26/01: Where California and Mexico meet
03/16/01: Boy's sentence was no accident
03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
02/28/01: Move a frog, go to jail?
02/26/01: They knew they'd get away with it
02/20/01: How Dems define tax fairness
02/16/01: The jackpot casino Carmel tribe?
02/14/01: You can fight school success
02/12/01: Hannibal -- with guts this time
02/08/01: A family of jailbirds
02/05/01: Reality's most demeaning TV moments
02/01/01: Justice for the non-Rich
01/26/01: Hail to the chiefs of D.C. opinion
01/24/01: A day of mud and monuments
01/22/01: Diversity, division, de-lovely D.C.
01/19/01: Parties agree: Give back the money
01/17/01: Get tough with the oil companies, or forget pumping more Alaskan crude
01/15/01: Mineta better pray that no attending confirmation senator has ever driven to San Jose during rush hour
01/12/01: Europeans should look in the mirror
01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
01/08/01: Jerry, curb your guru
01/03/01: A foe of Hitler and friend of Keating
12/28/00: Nice people think nice thoughts
12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders
12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
12/15/00: You can take the 24 years, good son
12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?
© 2000, Creators Syndicate