State officials said Tuesday that a UC Berkeley student group seeking to boost minority enrollment is spreading false information about admissions procedures at California’s public universities.
But members of the student group, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, insist that admissions language crafted by a state legislative committee is unclear and could lead to a reduction in enrollment for high-achieving minorities and other high-achieving students.
At issue is the California Master Plan for Education, a sprawling document that lays out a broad vision for California’s public schools from kindergarten through higher education.
The legislature developed the first master plan in 1960 in an attempt to divide up the educational turf for California’s public universities. The plan, among other things, stated that the University of California should choose its students from among the top one-eighth of graduating high school students in the state, while California State University should select from among the top one-third. The legislature has revised the 1960 document about every ten years since.
In its 1989 revision, the legislature went a step further on UC and CSU admissions. Instead of simply mandating that CSU choose students from “among” the top third and UC from “among” the top eighth, the legislature actually guaranteed admission for the top third at the 23-campus CSU system and the top eighth at the nine-campus UC system.
Last month, the legislature’s Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan released the latest revision of the plan.
BAMN charged at a Tuesday rally that the new master plan is vaguely-worded and threatens the 1989 guarantee. Eliminating the guarantee, coalition leaders said, would remove one way for high-achieving minorities and other high-achieving students,to gain automatic access to higher education.
But state officials said the new plan clearly retains the guarantee.
The document reads: “The California State University and University of California systems should continue to adhere to the policy of guaranteeing that all students who apply for freshman admission and who are eligible to attend (students within the top one-third, in the case of the California State University applicants, and the top one-eighth, in the case of University of California applicants) are offered admission to the system(s) for which they are eligible and have applied.”
Students argue that the phrase “within the top one-third...and the top eighth” could be interpreted to mean that a subgroup “within” the top third or eighth, rather than the entire group, would be admitted.
But Charles Ratliff, a senior consultant with the state Legislature’s Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan, said the students are “misrepresenting what the committee has adopted.” He said the guarantee remains in full effect.
The debate between BAMN and the joint committee stretches back to the first draft of the master plan, which omitted the word “guarantee.”
The first draft reverted to the language of the original 1960 master plan, which stated that CSU and UC would choose their students from “among” the top third and eighth, but did not guarantee admission for all of those students.
Ratliff said the joint committee reverted to the 1960 language, in part, because it feared that the Legislature, faced with a growing student population and, as a result, an expanded guarantee, might not be willing to fund the growth.
After lobbying by UC and BAMN, Ratliff said, the joint committee re-inserted the “guarantee” language.
Members of BAMN said Tuesday that, after the initial spat over the word “guarantee,” they do not trust the committee and want them to put forth “crystal clear” language, citing the 1989 revision as a model.
“We don’t trust them,” said Caroline Wong, national outreach coordinator for BAMN.
But UC spokesperson Hanan Eisenman said the university has no doubts about the final draft of the master plan.
“The guarantee does remain,” he said. “We’re going to continue to grant admission to the top 12.5 percent.”
The top 12.5 percent is equivalent to the top eighth.
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