An Update on My UCLA-Admissions Controversy

In my post yesterday, when describing Chapter 6 of Left Turn, I discussed an L.A. Times article about UCLA admissions.  I noted that the article had a liberal bias—not because of any false statements but because it omitted some important true statements.  In general, it reported many facts that liberals would want people to learn but omitted many facts that conservatives would want people to learn.

One of the facts that it omitted was the following:

  • Students who apply to UCLA are aware of the politically-correct, pro-affirmative-action attitudes, and in order to exploit them, a large number of minority students reveal their race on the personal essays that they write in their applications.

For this post, the key phrase in the above passage is “a large number of minority students reveal their race.”  When I wrote the initial draft for the chapter, sometime in late 2007, I originally wrote that “most” minority students (as opposed to “a large number”) reveal their race.

I didn’t know whether it was accurate to write “most,” but I had seen lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it was .

The first piece of evidence was revealed to me in 1991.  I was in a serious relationship with a black woman, who was about to apply to grad school.  At first, she didn’t want any schools to give her affirmative action.  But when it became time actually to send out the applications, she became worried that she might not be accepted to any of the schools in which she was interested.

She consequently abandoned her insistence that she not receive affirmative action.  “I don’t care,” she joked to me one day.  “Just make me a token.  I just want to be accepted to at least one of the schools.”

“But how will they know you’re black?” I asked.

“Well, one way,” she responded, “is that my resume notes that I participated in the Black Peer Tutoring program.”

“But how will they know you weren’t just a white person tutoring a black student?” I responded.

“Because it’s called black PEER tutoring.  Get it?  It means I’m black.”

“Oh,” I responded.

So, I’ve been aware, since 1991, that some minority students reveal their race in their applications.  And I was aware that at least some minority students thought that doing that helped their chances of admission.

On top of that, several of my undergrad students have shown me the essays that they have written for their law-school applications.  Almost all of the minority students, I’ve noticed, mention their race in the essays.  In fact, many made race the focus of their essay.  This was even true for some of the students who were members of races or ethnicities that do not typically receive affirmative action—such as Indians, Filipinos, or Armenians.  Yet, some of those students would still make their race or ethnicity the focus of their essay.

Nevertheless, despite these anecdotes, I did not know whether it was correct to write “most” in the above sentence—that is, to claim that most minority students reveal their race in their application essays.

However, because I happened to serve on the faculty oversight committee for UCLA admissions, I could actually learn whether it was correct to write “most” or not.

So in Spring 2008, I wrote the director of UCLA admissions, asking him for a random set of 1000 files.

He and his superiors denied my request.  I eventually resigned in protest from the committee.  My resignation received much attention from the media, including a few posts on Volokh Conspiracy.  (See, for example, here and here.)

But, as I can report today, that resignation would have never happened if I hadn’t been writing a book on media bias.