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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Interactions is based at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

Partial funding provided by the UCLA Graduate Students Association


Admissions and Public Higher Education in California, Texas, and Florida: The Post-Affirmative Action Era

1996 was a momentous year for higher education in the United States. In that year voters in California adopted Proposition 209, a ballot measure that amended the state constitution to prohibit public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. That same year, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in "Hopwood v. Texas" that it was unconstitutional for Texas public colleges and universities to use race as a condition of admission. The decisions in the two states reversed the trend among the nation’s major public universities to use affirmative action as a factor in the freshman admissions process. Prior to 1996, every public university in the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of the nation’s leading research universities, had employed affirmative action to ensure diversity among its entering freshmen classes.

Three years later, in November, 1999, Governor Jeb Bush joined Florida with California and Texas, announcing his “One Florida” initiative to eliminate affirmative action in university admissions at the state universities. With the implementation of “One Florida,” three of the four largest states in the nation and the three with the largest high school and college student populations had rescinded affirmative action for the purpose of achieving racial and ethnic diversity. Only New York’s public universities, of the nation’s four largest higher education systems, continued to use affirmative action in its admission decisions.

This essay examines the impact these developments had on diversity in freshmen enrollment in California, Texas, and Florida. Thomas Espenslade and Chang Chung argued in 2005, “[E]liminating affirmative action would reduce acceptance rates for African American and Hispanic applicants by as much as one-half to two-thirds and have an equivalent impact on the proportion of underrepresented minority students in the admitted class. White applicants would benefit very little by removing racial and ethnic preferences; the White acceptance rate would increase by roughly 0.5 percentage points. Asian applicants would gain the most. They would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African American and Hispanic students (p. 303-304).” Was this, in fact, the case for California, Florida, and Texas?

To determine the results, we selected the five universities in these states that were members of the AAU in 1990 - the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the University of Texas, Austin (UT Austin), and the University of Florida (UF) – and followed freshmen enrollment patterns from that period to the entering freshmen class of 2005. We also examined state high school graduation rates in these three states and added a control group of universities to compare these five universities with five others that did not eliminate Affirmative Action in admissions.

Our conclusions underscore much of what Espenshade and Chung (2005) and others have argued, but they also point out other serious and substantive developments that threaten the success of American higher education and its contribution to the success of American society.

Encroaching on Autonomy: The Influence of the Academic Bill of Rights on U.S. Higher Education

This document-analysis case study considers the potential impact of the Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR), a policy initiative developed by conservative activist David Horowitz to counter the perceived liberal domination of U.S. higher education and promote political and religious equality within colleges and universities. As a result of the growing influence of conservative interests on the educational priorities of state and federal government, it is increasingly important to examine the implications of such initiatives as the ABOR, as one example of the conservative educational agenda. This article argues that potential government implementation of the ABOR would diminish institutional autonomy, and thus weaken academic freedom and higher education’s role as social critic.

Burning Down the Shelf: Standardized Classification, Folksonomies, and Ontological Politics

Classification systems are ridden with politics of ontologies, diverse ways of being. These politics allude to power structures that are inherent in classification, especially with regards to classification systems that have been standardized. Standardized classification alludes to the authority of a privileged ontology and/or perspective, and runs the risk of perpetuating "informational imperialism" through homogenization. In contrast, folksomies acknowledge local and situated knowledges by including the voices of multiple ontologies, rather than prescribing how information should be organized. This paper employs assemblage theory as a framework by which to analyze folksonomies, and how they contrast with standardized classification. Folksonomies recognize the tensions that exist between assemblages and their respective ontologies and ways of knowing and being, and allow for the emergence of knowledge that is negotiated and co-produced. In conclusion, this paper recommends combining standardized and vernacular classification for the benefits of both: the ability for standardized classification to span spatial and temporal bounds, and the ability for folksonomic classification to acknowledge multiple ways of being and build relationships through emergent knowledge.

Growth, Personalization, and Dialogical Exchange in High School

Summative assessment in most American high schools consists of synoptic scores which promote peer ranking through grade point averages. This paper explores the ways in which one alternative high school (Progressive Secondary School) critically subverts the discourse of traditional assessment methods by emphasizing personal growth rather than comparative scores, and using assessment to facilitate ongoing dialogue between students, teachers, and parents. Instead of getting letter grades and taking standardized tests, students at Progressive receive personalized narrative evaluations and rubrics, and must publicly defend their work in biennial presentations. Utilizing critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2003), I show how Progressive’s alternative assessment methods encompass various genres, allow for multiple voices, and bring evaluation into what Habermas has labeled the “public sphere”. Ultimately, I argue that a shift in the overall discourse of assessment can lead to a deeper shift in perception about the uses and value of evaluation in schools.

The Discourse on the Digital Divide: Are We Being Co-opted?

This paper strives to reconstruct the digital divide discourse from a Gramscian perspective in relation to educators’ role in cultural force in the process of hegemonic dominance. Educators either serve the interest of ruling elites and help the maintenance of ideological hegemony or counter-serve hegemonic forces by breaking the cycle of dehumanization and oppression. In essence, the digital divide discourse and its popularization were perceived as a product of ideological hegemony. In order to analyze the digital divide discourse, this paper looked at the current literature related to digital divide, and then examined technology’s historical relations with the hegemonic power structure. The contemporary United States society and its dominant discourse on the digital divide and how other social determinants related to the class structure are being ignored in the process of approaching this social problem are also analyzed. Finally the paper discussed how educators need to deal with and challenge educational inequities in the new alteration process of hegemonic structure that has a strong dialectical relation with the new technological advancement. This discussion is one attempt to participate in its rearrangement.

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