UCLA professor files lawsuit against UC Board of Regents for allegedly withholding admissions data

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Update 11/21/18: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from UC spokesperson Claire Doan.

UCLA law professor Richard Sander and the recently formed Asian American Community Services Center, or AACSC, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the UC Board of Regents for allegedly failing to disclose admissions data.

This lawsuit comes amid a federal lawsuit against Harvard University, which is similarly accused of discriminating against Asian American students in its admissions practices.

The petitioners — Sander and the AACSC — are claiming that the UC is violating the California Public Records Act, or CPRA, by refusing to provide public records about data on UC applicants and enrolled students — data that the petitioners claim to have requested.

According to a press release accompanying the lawsuit, the UC failed to follow through with Sander’s CPRA request for more than a year. The press release added that according to the law, CPRA requests must be fulfilled with immediacy.

Sander requested data about the academic and socioeconomic characteristics of students who have applied to and enrolled in UC institutions in the last 12 years.

According to the petitioners, the UC responded to their claim by stating that “the production of data would be too burdensome or costly.”

The lawsuit cites Proposition 209, which amended the California state constitution in 1996 and prohibits public agencies, including the UC regents, from considering race, sex, ethnicity or national origin when evaluating applicants for admission.

Sander studies racial preferences in admissions and has argued that affirmative action places students in universities that they are underqualified to attend. He alleged in the lawsuit and in his research that the UC has illegally factored race into admissions decisions.

The petitioners are concerned that the UC is discriminating against Asian American students, which violates Prop. 209.

According to an email from Jean-Paul Jassy, the petitioners’ attorney, the petitioners seek anonymized data collected by the UC regents. The regents gave Sander the same type of data a decade ago, Jassy added in his email.

“This case is about transparency. It is about gaining information to understand the functioning of a government body,” Jassy said in an email. “The Public Records Act requires the disclosure of the type of information the Petitioners requested, in the form they’ve requested it.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the UC does not consider race, ethnicity or gender in admissions decisions.

The article states that Klein said the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses use 14 factors when evaluating applicants — which is a “holistic review” process — and the UC has been using race-neutral admissions methods “to ensure that a UC education is accessible to all segments of (California’s) population.”

UC spokesperson Claire Doan said in email that the UC had explained to the petitioners that “creating a responsive report that would adequately protect the privacy of the individual applicants involved is not required by law and would impose an extensive burden on university resources.”

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.