Berkeley sets off debate after accepting low SAT scorers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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