San Francisco – The University of California Board of Regents adopted a controversial admission policy that will affect this year’s UC applicants, in the first of their two-day meeting at UCSF’s Laurel Heights campus Wednesday.

The “Comprehensive Admissions Review,” drafted by the UC Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools and unanimously recommended by the UC Assembly of the Academic Senate on Oct. 30, allows campuses to admit all eligible students on criteria not limited to academic achievement. Such criteria can include extracurricular activities, special talents, academic accomplishments under disadvantaged circumstances and special leadership or intellectual qualities.

The passage of the comprehensive review scraps the UC’s 40-year-old “two-tier system,” in which each campus accepts 50 to 75 percent of an incoming class through GPA and SAT scores and the other portion through both grades and extracurricular factors.

“The tier system is a peculiar carry-over. It’s an atrocious system, but it’s the best system we have,” UC President Richard Atkinson said. “We are simply moving in the direction of every other competitive college in California.”

After extensive debate over the new plan, which began in their October meeting, the Regents’ Committee on Education voted 13-2 for the review, which the entire board will approve today.

A number of skeptical regents charged that the comprehensive review is too subjective, could spark lawsuits and is being implemented too close to the Nov. 30 UC application deadline. Regent David Lee questioned the weight applicants’ written statements could have on their admission chances.

“If we only spend 20 minutes looking at an application, I don’t believe that is enough time to really get to know a student,” Lee said. “I believe whoever tells the best story, whether it is true or not, will get the advantage, and no one verifies the story.”

Regent Monica Lozano said data from UC Berkeley, which embraced a similar admissions approach over three years ago, clearly suggests that academic quality of students has risen since.

“I’m not concerned about lowering the academic achievement of our students. On the contrary, I believe comprehensive review preserves academic excellence,” she said. “We are not rewarding disadvantaged students; we are rewarding students who have met the challenges that they’ve had to face.”

The review will primarily affect impacted UC campuses, such as Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego – schools that receive the highest volume of qualified applicants in the UC system.

UCSB currently admits close to 60 percent of its classes based on academic criteria alone, according to Bill Villa, special advisor to the chancellor for admissions. Villa said he expects a “flip-flop” with this year’s applicants, where 60 percent of the freshman class will gain admission through the comprehensive review as opposed to test scores, class rank and GPA. Villa said the Admissions Office is in the process of hiring more readers to process an estimated 36,000 applicants this quarter and plans to be fully transitioned to the comprehensive review by 2003.

“It’s a very labor-intensive process in a tight time frame,” he said.

The state legislature provided $750,000 in this year’s UC budget in anticipation of the review’s passage, but UC Academic Senate Chair Chand Viswanathan said the final cost would depend on the number of additional readers hired by each campus.

All students who spoke in public comment voiced their support for the comprehensive review.