Original  URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/Sun/31109RSATSpat.html

Berkeley sets off debate after accepting low SAT scorers
November 9, 2003

By Michelle Locke

BERKELEY, Calif. - Revelations that the University of California-Berkeley took in nearly 400 students with low SAT scores while rejecting more than 3,000 with high marks have rekindled the debate over whether UC admissions pass the fairness test.

The scrutiny is turning the spotlight on UC's new "comprehensive review" system of admissions, which takes into account a student's personal circumstances, and has sharpened criticism that UC may be skirting an affirmative action ban.

"It all reinforces the suspicions of people who have wondered all along if comprehensive review doesn't amount to quotas in camouflage," said Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has gone to court to defend Proposition 209, the state law that forbids considering race in public hiring, contracting or education.

"The way they put it together doesn't make any sense to me," said Kyle Taylor, who was rejected by UC Berkeley in 2002 despite having an SAT-equivalent score of 1420.

UC administrators seem a bit bewildered by the SAT spat. They point out that the university began giving less weight to the verbal and math test formally known as SAT I several years ago on the grounds that it's a mediocre predictor of college success.

They also note that the number of students in question is a tiny fraction of the overall class and that while lower-scoring students may not have shone on the SAT, all met UC eligibility requirements, meaning they were guaranteed a space at one of UC's eight undergraduate campuses.

Supporters of comprehensive review say the system doesn't give extra points for hardship, but rather recognizes cases where a student has overcome personal difficulties.

Berkeley routinely turns away more than 20,000 applicants each year, and generally takes the cream of the crop, but UC policy also requires all campuses to draw students from varying economic levels as well as from different parts of the state.

"It concerns us that there seems to be this suggestion that these particular students are in some ways undeserving of admission to the University of California," said UC spokesman Michael Reese. "To be eligible they need to have solid grades in rigorous UC-approved academic coursework. On that basis alone, these are deserving students."

But since the SAT stats come from a report released by no less than John Moores, chairman of UC's governing Board of Regents, the issue seems unlikely to fade away soon.

Similar data have been released on admissions at UCLA and UC San Diego, and UC President Robert C. Dynes has appointed a panel to study admissions procedures.

At Berkeley, more than 3,200 students with SAT scores of 1400 or better - 1600 is perfect - were turned away in 2002. Meanwhile, 386 were taken with scores of 1000 or lower.

Of the 386, more than half were black or Hispanic, two groups under- represented at Berkeley.