April 1, 1998 in Nation/World

Minority Numbers Tumble In Uc System Black, Latino Classes The Smallest In Years

Kenneth R. Weiss And Mary Curtius Los Angeles Times
 

The number of blacks admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, has plunged by 66 percent, and the number admitted to UCLA dropped 43 percent as the state’s premier public institutions announced the first freshman class in two decades picked without any preference for race, ethnicity or gender.

Declines among Latinos were smaller but still substantial - 53 percent at Berkeley and 33 percent at UCLA.

Those figures complete a picture that began to become clear last month when other UC campuses released their admissions statistics, most of which showed large declines in black and Latino admissions.

The new figures mean that fewer than 200 blacks were among the more than 8,000 students admitted to Berkeley - the lowest number of blacks since 1981. At both campuses, freshman Latinos and blacks will be at their lowest level in more than a decade.

The numbers are certain to drop further as the admitted students - nearly all of whom have acceptance letters from more than one school - decide where they actually want to go this fall.

As has been true for several years, Asian-Americans will be the largest group at both UCLA and Berkeley, outnumbering whites.

With the elimination of affirmative action, both UCLA and Berkeley - as well as most other UC campuses - gave extra consideration in the admissions process to applicants who come from poor families, are the first in their family to try for college, or have overcome adversity to excel in school.

But although those adjustments helped some blacks and Latinos, they were “vastly outnumbered by low-income white and Asian students,” said UC Berkeley admissions director Robert Laird.

UCLA, UC Berkeley and other UC campuses are launching aggressive recruiting drives to persuade the minority students they have admitted to come to their schools. In many cases, they will be facing off against the nation’s elite private schools offering full scholarships.

“There is much more competition for these top students,” said UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale. Even with the outreach, he conceded that “if everything is the same as last year, our number of underrepresented minorities will go down” further as students sort out their options.

UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Robert Berdahl said he will “personally phone as many of these students as I can.” UCLA is planning “phone-a-thons” with faculty, students and alumni to woo the best and brightest to join next year’s class.

But Carnesale said he is worried that Tuesday’s admission figures might scare away some black and Latino students with the message that “they are not wanted, nor welcome, at UCLA.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “These students are wanted and needed more than ever.”

University of California policy allowed some preferences in admission for race, ethnicity and gender since the late 1970s until UC regents abolished affirmative action in 1995. While admissions officers worked on the new race-blind procedures, California voters approved Proposition 209, making affirmative action illegal in all public institutions.


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