Despite rising applicant diversity, campus admit ethnic composition remains nearly identical

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Despite a marked increase in applications from underrepresented minorities to UC Berkeley this year, the representation of those minorities in the admitted pool of students remained constant compared to previous years.

California freshman applicants admitted to UC Berkeley for fall 2013 have a nearly identical ethnic composition to those of previous years, even as campus groups and the university continue to push for greater minority inclusion.

While African Americans, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian constituted 32.1 percent of California residents applying to UC Berkeley, they make up 22 percent of admitted students, according to data released by the UC Office of the President last week. Last year, the same groups made up 30.9 percent of the resident applicant pool and saw comparable admissions numbers.

“Though (the numbers) remain pretty flat, it’s actually not a good thing, because most of them are severely under the demographics of the state,” said Kirk Coleman, executive director of the UC Berkeley bridges Multicultural Resource Center.

Of the resident students admitted to UC Berkeley this year, the proportion of students who identified as Chicano/Latino dropped 0.1 percentage points, while the proportion who identified as African American rose 0.1 percentage points. Those who identified as American Indian have made up the same proportion of admitted resident students since 2011.

“One of the things that is clearly a challenge here is that we don’t have an opportunity to know the race or ethnicity or gender as we read the applications,” said Amy Jarich, UC Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions. “We have a long way to go, so we need to keep working with our partners.”

The release of this data comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is considering Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case challenging the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions. The court’s ruling could have implications for Proposition 209, a California ballot measure that prevents the University of California from considering race, ethnicity or gender in admissions.

“We, as bridges, do a lot of the work that undergraduate admissions should be doing but can’t due to Proposition 209,” Coleman said. “We try to make (admissions) numbers remain the same.”

University administrators also expressed frustration with Prop. 209 in a brief submitted to the Fisher v. UT Austin case last summer.

UC Berkeley sophomore Kristina Duncan, an American Indian student and a volunteer for the Native American Recruitment and Retention Center, said the flat growth of admissions stems in part from lack of direct communication with the university.

“I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, you got into Cal because you’re Native American,’” Duncan said. “I find that interesting, because if that were true, our numbers might be 5 percent, 4 percent, even 1 percent. I feel like if (the university) were more involved with us, more programs would be formed. We are going to need the assistance and guidance of the university itself.”

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Libby Rainey covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rainey_l.