University of California Now Discriminates Based on Parental Income, Education

University of California Now Discriminates Based on Parental Income, Education

Students walk between classes at the University of California–San Diego in San Diego, Calif., on May 15, 2018. (Yang Jie/The Epoch Times)

James Breslo

James Breslo

5/3/2024

Updated: 5/3/2024

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Commentary
In 1996, Californians voted, 55 to 45 percent, to ban the use of affirmative action in admissions to state schools and in state employment. In 2020, Californians voted to maintain the ban by an even wider margin, 57 to 43 percent. Last year, the United States Supreme Court struck down college affirmative action policies on the grounds they violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The clear message from the people and the Court is that admission should be based upon merit. But those running the University of California (UC) maintain their obsession with race and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). They are undeterred in their mission to enforce equity via affirmative action. Rather than complying with the law and the will of the people, they search for loopholes to achieve the racial balancing they deem ideal for the shaping of society.
The most recent example comes from its San Diego campus (UCSD) which implemented a rule that discriminates against students whose parents make more than a certain amount of money or who went to college. It just so happens that this rule greatly advantages black and Latino students. In a nice side benefit for the administrators, it hurts Asians, who are already overrepresented at the UCs (as well as most universities, as addressed in the Supreme Court case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which specifically addressed discrimination against Asian students.)
Beginning next year, certain “selective” majors (such as biology and most engineering degrees, including computer science) will have a special selection criteria at UCSD. “The selection criteria for entry to the major will consider academic achievement in the specified screening courses and will also be aligned with UC San Diego’s priorities of serving California residents, first-generation college students, and students from low-income families.” Thus, UCSD, without any direction from its constituents, has decided that it should prioritize students based on the status of their parents.
Here is how it works. There is a new point system “that awards one point each for having a 3.0 GPA or higher in the major screening courses; California residency; Pell Grant eligibility [i.e. parental income]; and first-generation college status.” Thus, half of the criteria is based upon the student’s parents. And since the majority of UC students are from California, and a 3.0 GPA is pretty easy, it really means that the primary determiner will be the status of the children’s parents.
The reason for the new policy is pretty obvious: It will advantage black and Latino students, and disadvantage white and Asian. It is unique, however, in that it is using old-school class warfare to achieve it.
Many have noted that the left has typically substituted race for class as a means of implementing socialism in the United States. Due to the U.S.’s strong middle class and upward mobility, class warfare has not worked as a means of implementing socialism here. But with courts striking down admissions policies based upon race, the left is now going back to old-fashioned class conflict. Will it work, or is it also illegal to discriminate based upon parental income or education?
If a court determines that the intent of the policy is to discriminate based upon race, then it will apply a “strict scrutiny” test to the policy. This is the standard the Supreme Court used in striking down affirmative action in the Harvard case. The UCSD policy, in fact, appears to be thinly disguised discrimination.
It is well-known that the average income of black and Hispanic people is below that of white and Asian, as is the percentage with a college degree. Thus, a court should hold the policy to the same standard as the ones struck down in the Harvard case. Justice John Roberts wrote that the Equal Protection Clause applies “without regard to any difference of race, of color, or of nationality” and thus must apply to every person. As such, “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” adding that “For ‘[t]he guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color.’”
It is interesting that the policy, for now, appears to only apply to currently enrolled students attempting to transfer into these majors, not upon admission. Perhaps recognizing that the policy will have a discriminatory effect and thus subject to challenge, UCSD limited it to leave open the argument that it is not denying anyone an education, simply the major of their choice. But this is unlikely to fly, considering that the two most important elements of a quality education is the school and the major. If you cannot get a degree in engineering, you cannot become an engineer, while a biology degree is the natural feeder to medical school.
The UCSD policy is not the first time the UC has attacked students based upon their parent’s income. It used the same rationale to dump the SAT test. It argued that the test benefits children from wealthier families who can afford SAT prep courses. They now rely exclusively on high school grade point averages to determine scholarly merit. This allows them to easily create the racial balance they desire. They treat all high schools the same, whether it be the best private high school or the worst public school. We know that finishing in the top ten percent of your school is much easier to do at a public school than a private one, but that does not matter to UC. Achieving the desired racial makeup is more important to them than the merit of the individual.
The UC faculty, through the “Academic Senate,” oversees the admissions process. It explained getting rid of the SAT test: “This decision, which is part of the ongoing effort by the university to advance educational opportunity and equity, was based on the view that these tests are biased because they systematically and unfairly reduce the likelihood that underrepresented and low-income high school students will be accepted to the university.”
I have lots of stories from friends whose children could not get into a single one of the nine UC campuses across the state, but were accepted by the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin, two of the best public universities in the country. That’s a nice consolation prize, except for the price, which is about five times more due to out-of-state tuition.
It is really incredible and the height of arrogance that California’s preeminent public university continues to fight against the will of its people. The Academic Senate asserts that “as a state public institution, the UC is obliged to create a student body that is representative of the demographic profile of California.” UC has even placed a Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, overseeing an entire department, at each campus to ensure this.
That sounds nice, the only problem is Californians have twice voted against it, and the discrimination required to achieve it is unconstitutional. But when you are on a cultish mission to create your utopian vision, those are minor inconveniences.
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James Breslo

James Breslo

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James Breslo is an attorney and host of the “Hidden Truth Show” podcast. He is a former partner at the international law firm Seyfarth Shaw and public company president. He has appeared numerous times as a legal expert on Fox News and CNN, and serves on the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 Public Diplomacy committee.

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