In Fall 2006, the enrollment of African American freshmen at UCLA fell to less than 100 students out of 5,000, or about 2 percent of the class. In a county in which Blacks make up nearly 10 percent of the population, this outrageous statistic led to a groundswell of protest, concern and activism.
The Alliance for Equal Opportunity in Education (AEOE) worked closely with UCLA administrators and governance officials throughout the UC System in order to institute a new, fairer, race-neutral but "holistic" model of admissions. As a result, the systemic exclusion of students of color--Black and Brown--was abated to a degree.
Six years later, enrollment has increased to approximately 250 African American students per freshman class, out of more than 5,000 enrollees. Given there is still work to be done, the numbers at least have been moving in the right direction.
However, in the wake of the upcoming elections, in the midst of the resurgence of racial animus, and with the Supreme Court's shameful dance on affirmative action (once again), there are those who would have you believe that even the small gains in the students of color admitted to UCLA in recent years prove that the university is cheating by considering race in its admissions process. This is the perspective presented in a misleading editorial that appeared on Oct. 23 in the UCLA campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin. Sadly, the forces behind this prejudicial rant also have spread it through other newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Can you imagine being a student of color at UCLA today, having to bear the weight of the idea that your classmates and others question your right to be there?
The truth is that the typical Black student admitted to UCLA has multiple offers of admission from elite universities across the country. Not only do Black students present stellar academic records when they are admitted to UCLA, but they also excel in the classroom, graduating at rates comparing favorably to most highly selective, public universities.
Despite these documented statistics, law professor Richard Sander, whose "research" fueled the intentionally denigrating editorial, feels that a large portion of the Black and Latino students at UCLA simply do not belong there. He apparently envisions a Los Angeles--one of the most diverse cities in the nation--with a racially sanitized higher education "club" right smack in the middle; its billboard reading: "Our campus; Blacks and Latinos need not apply." Sander's UCLA would be a public land-grant institution, which we all pay taxes to support, that is a primarily exclusive enclave for the offspring of the privileged (with the exception, of course, of minority athletes who raise tremendous revenues for the campus and entertain everyone else).
Fortunately, the UCLA administration does not subscribe to this out-of-touch vision and has worked diligently to manage the most fair and just admissions system possible, given the constraints imposed by California's Proposition 209, the ban on affirmative action.
AEOE will continue to work closely with the campus in the important struggle of inclusion for all students and communities represented in Los Angeles.
AEOE is African American community leadership coalition in Los Angeles which has met weekly since June 2006 to address admissions and enrollment issues at UCLA, when in that year African American enrollment for the freshman class fell below 100 students. AEOE has been instrumental in developing a more "holistic" approach to admission policies at UCLA and throughout the UC system.
AEOE membership has included representatives from among the leadership of the Los Angeles Urban League, NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Brotherhood Crusade, UCLA African Student Union, UCLA Black Alumni Association, local clergy, additional agencies, elected officials and individual community members.
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