Supporters of the lawsuit charging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian American applicants have frequently suggested that the University of California’s campuses provide a model for college admissions. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, barring state institutions from considering race and ethnicity in admissions. At the most competitive campuses in the UC system, Asian Americans now outnumber students of other groups. At UCLA, for example, 29 percent of students are Asian American, 27 percent are white, 22 percent Hispanic and 3 percent are black.
But a lawsuit filed in California court Thursday suggests that the university system may well be considering race and ethnicity in admissions, in ways that favor black and Latino students and hurt Asian Americans. The lawsuit seeks detailed information on applicants to UC campuses (without the applicants’ names) along with enough information to consider whether there are different standards used to evaluate these applicants, based on race and ethnicity, and how those who are admitted and enroll fare as students. The suit was filed by Richard H. Sander, a professor of law at UCLA who is a longtime critic of the consideration of race in admissions. He is the co-author of Mismatch (Basic Books), which argues that minority students who benefit from affirmative action in admissions may end up enrolling at institutions where they may not thrive. (Many in higher education dispute the theory and point to high graduation rates for black and Latino students who enroll at elite colleges that consider race in admissions)….