UC Berkeley diversity plan sparks criticism from Asian American advocacy group

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Swan Lee/AACE/Courtesy

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After UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ announced ambitious plans to increase the school’s Hispanic student population, the Asian American Coalition for Education, or AACE, sent a letter to Christ denouncing this plan Aug. 30.

Christ said she plans to make UC Berkeley a Hispanic-serving institution, or HSI, in the next 10 years, meaning that at least 25 percent of enrolled, full-time equivalent undergraduate students must be Hispanic, according to a campuswide message sent Aug. 20. AACE, a national Asian American advocacy group, believes Christ’s plan to be a “shameless proclamation of a Hispanic quota,” according to a press release issued Sept. 5.

“If anything, becoming a HSI should be a circumstantial result of merit-based admissions practices that examine each applicant’s individualized qualifications, not a preconceived means to an end of diversity,” the letter said.

UC Berkeley is not changing admissions policy or practice with respect to this goal, but plans to encourage admitted students to enroll at UC Berkeley, according to an email from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“The coalition’s claims are unfortunately based on the baseless and completely erroneous assumption that this University is planning to use racial quotas as part of its admission process,” Mogulof said in an email. “We have no quotas of any sort at present, and nor will we have quotas in the future.”

According to co-founder of AACE Swan Lee, the organization was shocked by Christ’s emphasis on the percentage of Hispanic students that UC Berkeley hopes to achieve within the next 10 years. Raymond Wong, the director of AACE’s legal committee, said the plan “implies” racial quotas.

Six schools in the UC system have reached the distinction of HSI — UC Riverside, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara. AACE has not commented on these schools’ HSI statuses.

Wong noted that certain areas have higher proportions of certain races, which may have contributed to the other six UC campuses’ HSI statuses. Lee added that she believes the six UC campuses reached this distinction naturally, without racial quotas.

“If a school organically and naturally reached 25 percent Hispanic based on merit-based admissions and some combined socioeconomic approach, that’s a different thing,” Lee said.

Lee said she hopes UC Berkeley will “adhere to their promise” and not change current admission standards and procedures. She added that AACE will be observing UC Berkeley’s admission rates and percentages from now on.

“We believe that, as a public university, we have a responsibility to uphold the law; prepare our students for the diverse, multicultural world and workplaces they will inhabit; and, to the greatest extent possible, reflect and embody the demographics of the state we serve,” Mogulof said in an email.

Contact Julie Madsen and Mani Sandhu at [email protected].