UC Berkeley Receives Record Number of Applications; Students Demand Increase in Minority Admissions

Bay City News
Wednesday April 08, 2009 - 07:44:00 PM

UC Berkeley announced Tuesday, April 7 that the school had received a record number of applications for the 2009-2010 academic year and has accepted nearly 13,000 students to its fall freshman class. 

According to the university, 48,640 students applied to be incoming freshmen and 26.6 percent were accepted. The number is up slightly from last year when 26.1 percent of freshman applicants were accepted. 

While some University of California campuses have had to reduce freshman enrollment in response to budget cuts, UC Berkeley’s target enrollment has remained the same as last year—about 4,300 students for the fall and another 950 for the spring semester, according to the university. 

Although more students already enrolled at the university have become eligible for financial aid, new applications for financial aid do not appear to reflect the current economic downturn, according to the financial aid office. 

Accepted students have until May 1 to decide whether to enroll at the university. 

About 20 UC Berkeley students marched through campus Wednesday, April 8, to protest the school’s admissions process, which they claim has denied acceptance to qualified minority applicants. 

The university announced Tuesday that black, Latino and American Indian students make up only 17 percent of the 13,000 students who have been accepted into the fall semester’s incoming freshman class, the same percentage of minority students the university accepted last year. 

The number of minority students that were accepted remained the same despite a rising number of qualified minority applicants, according to Ronald Cruz, a UC Berkeley law student and an organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. 

Cruz also pointed out that the California Department of Education has reported that Latino students will make up the majority of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the state by the 2009-2010 school year. Minority students currently make up 44 percent of students graduating high school, Cruz said. 

Protesters are claiming that the university is “discriminating against Latina/o, black and Native American students by imposing a ceiling on the number of underrepresented minority students they admit,” Cruz said. 

“There is absolutely no ceiling for any type of student based on ethnicity—either in policy or in practice,” Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Undergraduate Admissions for UC Berkeley Walter Robinson said. 

Admissions are based on a comprehensive review of applicants in the context of the opportunities that have been made available to them, Robinson said. Gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation is not considered during the application process. 

The university had an affirmative action policy until 1996 when voters passed Proposition 209, which amended the state constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, gender or ethnicity. 

Before Proposition 209, the university accepted twice as many minority students than it currently accepts, according to Robinson. 

He said if the school were legally allowed to recruit students based on their race or ethnicity, he would, and he would be an advocate for a public policy change that would truly level the playing field and close the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students. 

Proposition 209 has, however, made it impossible for the university to influence the racial or ethnic makeup of the student body, Robinson said. 

He said that one of the unintended consequences of the proposition has, in effect, been to eliminate the university’s ability to look at someone in the totality of who they are. 

As a black man himself, Robinson said it was extremely difficult to be accused of participating in an admissions process that excluded people based on race. 

“We don’t admit students because they are the exception,” Robinson said. “We admit them because they are among the best and the brightest in the country. Do we want more? Of course we do. Who wouldn’t?”