Overall advances in UC diversity in the 1980s and early 1990s have reversed direction, the report states, and any small gains have been concentrated at a few campuses. Women and non-Asian minorities continue to have particularly low levels of representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the report noted.
It is also no surprise that the board of Regents which met this week on the UC Davis campus would embrace this study and vow to take aggressive and concrete steps to address the diversity crisis facing the premier public university system in the world.
One of the most stunning bits of information that emerged from this discussion was that only 30 percent of high schools offer the A-G courses–core curriculum–that are required for UC admissions.
Frankly that piece of information alone should be headline grabbing, alarming information. And folks, as you might guess, that has nothing at all to do with UC. That has nothing to do with Proposition 209. That is an indictment of our public school system.
In light of that finding it was also refreshing to hear that California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who serves as an ex-officio member, urged the board not to lower the bar for academic requirements to attend a UC campus but rather find solutions that will increase diversity while at the same time maintaining the current levels of standards.
Another regent, Sherry Lansing, suggested partnering with the CSU system to create outreach programs to encourage more high schools to offer the A-G courses (the CSU system also requires A-G courses).
Embattled UC President Robert Dynes forcefully said:
“I reject the idea that we can’t change K-12. We can. No one else will.”
It was remarkable to me on the other hand to read the comments from Oiyan Poon, the President of the University of California Student Association.
In her comments to UC Regents before they voted to support the recommendations of the study group recommendations she said among other things:
“In order to begin addressing this crisis, students ask that Regents 1) ensure that academic preparation programs receive at least $33 million for the 2008-2009 school year; 2) eliminate or at least decrease the use of SAT I, SAT II and GRE scores as eligibility requirements; and 3) reevaluate admissions eligibility requirements, especially A-G required courses.”
I have no problem with the first recommendation. I’ve long believed that admissions process was too reliant on standardized tests, but I certainly cannot support the third recommendation there. I do not believe the solution to this problem is to water down the admissions process, I think it is to bring the high schools across this state up to the level that is needed for their students to attend UC and CSU.
We wish to put this on the UC Regents, and they certainly bear responsibility here, but to me this is an indictment on the state legislature and the state as a whole. Students should be protesting next week in front of the state Capital demanding that the legislature mandate and fund college prep programs at all high schools across the state.
The UC Regents have acknowledged the problem that exists and that everyone can see. It is always said of course that the first step to solving a problem, is to acknowledge that one exists. However, in this case, the problem itself is going to take a tremendous amount of political will across jurisdictions. If however, UC and CSU are willing to partner to take the lead on this, perhaps it is possible that things can be improved. If not, then the UC system will become ever more of an elite institution and move away from the vision of public higher education that has embodied it for so long.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting