Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Professor Accuses UCLA of “Cheating” to Raise Black Student Enrollment

September 2nd, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

A report on the China View website brought to my attention the battle that is taking place at UCLA, between the undergraduate admissions committee and Political Science Professor Timothy Groseclose, a former committee member.

Apparently Prof. Groseclose has become convinced that the admissions committee is, to use his language, “cheating” in the admissions process. Since 1996, California’s Proposition 209 has effectively prohibited any form of identity based discrimination or preferential treatment by state institutions. The main point of this proposition is expressed in this excerpt from the text of Prop 209:

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

On August 28, 2008, Professor Groseclose submitted his “Report on Suspected Malfeasance in UCLA Admissions and the Accompanying Cover-Up.” The report begins with this summary of his accusations against the admissions committee:

A growing body of evidence strongly suggests that UCLA is cheating on admissions. Specifically, applicants often reveal their own race on the essay part of their application. This allows admissions staff members to learn the race of applicants; then, in violation of Proposition 209, readers use such information to evaluate applicants. To the extent that this happens – an extent which can only be assessed with stematic data on admissions – such practices are de facto implementations of race preferences.

(To read the full text of Professor Groseclose’s report, click HERE.)

UCLA has consistently denied that it has violated Prop 209 in any of its policies or practices, and the University responded to Professor Groseclose’s accusations, issuing a statement that affirms, among other things, that,

“UCLA’s admissions policies and practices were developed to scrupulously adhere to state law and University of California regulations. The campus remains committed to the highest ethical standards and to openness and transparency in establishing and maintaining admissions policies in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”

(To read the full text of UCLA’s Statement on Admissions Processes, click HERE.)

Groseclose emphasizes that he does, in fact, support the use of racial preferences in college admissions, but that he opposes what he perceives as the unlawful actions taken by UCLA. He describes his beliefs in the second appendix of his 89-page report:

Notwithstanding some accusations I may face, I strongly favor racial diversity.

Indeed, in university admissions I favor racial preferences – that is, to adopt policies that would aid racial groups who have faced greater challenges and suffered past discrimination – as long as the preferences are executed transparently and within the limits of the law.

Groseclose believes that there are a number of strategies that UCLA admissions could use to increase racial diversity in its undergraduate student body without violating the constraints imposed by Proposition 209, including the adoption of a policy that grants, “automatic admission to any student who graduated in the top 1% of his or her high school class.”

Groseclose’s statement of support for diversity aside, it troubles me that a sudden rise in the number of Black students admitted to UCLA seems to have launched his probe into the University’s admissions practices. I doubt that a sudden surge in the number of Arab American, Asian American, or Latin American students admitted would have been met with the same suspicions.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Groseclose and others who associate a rise in the number of Black on campus as evidence of unlawful activity that maybe UCLA, under pressure from concerned Black alumni, has actually became more fair to Black students, rather than less fair to white and Asian students. Is it possible that UCLA has simply gotten better at judging Black students fairly, rather than worse at adhering to state law?

When one considers the history of Black people in the U.S. (including recent history), the proponderance of the evidence indicates that large and powerful institutions are rarely biased toward Black people. Even in the case of affirmative action, the fact remains that, throughout the history of affirmative action, the greatest beneficiaries of its policies have been white women, whose sweeping and preference-based advances have largely been masked by the national obsession with the relatively small gains made by people of African descent.

I will watch this story with great interest, but little hope that it will result in any outcomes that are favorable for Black people. Throughout the blogosphere, many have already made up their minds that more Black folks at UCLA must mean less fairness toward other ethnic groups. This is a shadow that will follow the Black students on that campus throughout their undergraduate careers. The intimations — whispered, written, and spoken aloud — that they are somehow less deserving than students of any other ethnic heritage will mar their academic experience; and, in my experience, no level of performance, no matter how high, will convince the majority of students on campus that each Black student they encounter does not represent a white student’s displacement by a ”less qualified” person of African descent.

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in Academia, African Americans, Black Students, Current Events, Higher Education, race, Timothy Groseclose, UCLA, Uncategorized

2 Responses

  1. SjP

    “will convince the majority of students on campus that each Black student they encounter does not represent a white student’s displacement ”

    This is so true and unfortunately, has been the case for far too long. I often wonder what institutions would do if there were a mass exodus of African American students to HBCUs. Would such institutions care? The sad truth is that they would care – but not until the NCAA coffers began to dry up.

  2. Keith

    Sounds to me like the primary – and barely disguised -motivation of the so-called watchdogs for Prop 209 is to keep the numbers of blacks from getting too high at UCLA. This isn’t about race neutrality at all. It’s about racial neutering.

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