Judge: Students Can Sue University of California for Alleged Discrimination for Requiring SAT/ACT Tests for Admission

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AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

An Alameda, California, County Superior Court judge has ruled that the University of California system can be sued for alleged discrimination against low-income, minority, and disabled students for requiring them to take SAT and ACT tests for admission to its schools.

The decision comes at the same time that UC is considering dropping the tests as a mandatory requirement for admission to its schools — spearheaded by former Obama administration cabinet member and UC President Janet Napolitano.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the nexus of UC’s admissions review and the lawsuit:

The lawsuit’s allegations, if proven, could show that the university “knew that its policy choice would disproportionately impact minority and low-income students” as well as disabled students, said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman in a ruling made public Tuesday. He said California law prohibits discriminatory government policies even if the bias was unintentional.

The regents are scheduled to meet Thursday and consider UC President Janet Napolitano’s proposal to eliminate the requirement of the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing exam for students seeking admission in the fall of 2021.

Her plan, announced May 11, would allow students applying in 2021 or 2022 to submit their SAT and ACT scores. Applications for 2023 and 2024 would not include test scores, and in 2025, Napolitano wants UC either to create its own exam or to eliminate admissions tests.

The lawsuit is embraced by activists who claim that the tests are unfair to students who can’t afford to pay for courses or tutors to help them prepare and those for whom English is a second language. They also say the result is less diversity on campuses.

And, these activists claim, Napolitano’s proposal does not move quickly enough to get rid of the tests.

“The lawsuit, if successful, would prohibit use of the exams in UC admissions,” the Chronicle reported.

The suit includes background on the testing issue, including that in the 1960s UC refused to require the SAT for admission, but then reinstated the testing in 1979.

“Seligman, in his ruling, said the evidence could show that the university knew the test had an adverse impact on disadvantaged and minority applicants,” the Chronicle reported.

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