A new UC admissions policy meant to increase diversity has prompted backlash from some who charge that the changes give an unfair advantage to white applicants at the expense of prospective Asian-American students.

Starting in 2012, the University will no longer consider applicants’ scores on the SAT II Subject Tests. The change, which would shift the focus to the SAT I Reasoning Test, was made in an attempt to broaden student eligibility university officials said. However, evidence from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing has shown that Asian-Americans generally outperform other groups on the SAT II while white students do better on the SAT, thus creating a potential disadvantage for the former.

Currently, the UC is the only public university in the country that requires prospective students to take two SAT II subject tests. Only a handful of private universities require applicants to fulfill this requirement as well.

The 2009 California Postsecondary Education Commission eligibility study predicts a drop in the percentage of Asian-American students accepted into the UC system from 36 to 29 percent. It also forecasts a rise for white applicants’ acceptance from 34 to 44 percent. The changes estimated for black and Latino applicants admitted were both within one percent.

“Representation of students from different racial and ethnic groups would also be relatively stable, with … moderate declines for Asian Americans and increases for Whites,” the report concludes.

Despite such claims, the study admitted to a large margin of error, especially in regards to the Asian-American population.

In response to concerns over the implications of this new policy, Chancellor Henry T. Yang has stated that the intent of the change is to promote diverse access to the leading public university.

“Throughout the UC system, we are committed to excellence, diversity and accessibility,” Yang wrote. “The new eligibility standards and elimination of the SAT II Subjects Tests, as proposed by the Academic Council and approved by the regents, are part of UC’s ongoing efforts to provide the broadest possible student access to a high-quality UC education, while ensuring that we have a student body that is academically well prepared and encompasses the diversity of the state of California.”

Yang went on to add that the proposal had gone through about five years of discussion at all levels of the Academic Council and that the topic of eligibility will continue to be at the forefront of discussion, analysis and debate.

Still, some remain skeptical that the new policy will effectively address whatever inequities exist in the application process.

Ada Marie Sison, a first-year student at UCSB, said she is concerned about the new and troubling questions raised by the findings of the eligibility study.

“It’s a bit discouraging to hear,” Sison said. “If you’re going to tinker with one SAT test, you should tinker with them both. Maybe create one whole new test altogether. This policy change just makes me feel like there won’t be an even playing field for the upcoming 2012 applicants.”
UCSB English professor Yunte Huang, however, encouraged would-be detractors to become completely familiar with all the facts before speaking out against the UC policy change.
“I would investigate more carefully before reacting swiftly to these policy changes,” Huang said. “[The changes] might have more far-reaching consequences than they appear to.”