Today's Papers

University Admitting Mistakes?

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the University of California’s disclosure that as a result of Proposition 209’s mandate to abandon affirmative action in admissions, the new freshman classes at its two most selective schools, Berkeley and UCLA, will have far fewer minority students than in the recent past. The Washington Post goes with the Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban the courtroom use of polygraph results. USA Today leads with news that might be heartening for many users of the now withdrawn diet concoction Redux: a new study suggests that short-term use of the drug is not associated with an increase in heart valve problems. But the paper goes on to note that the study was sponsored by Redux’s manufacturer and does not in any case address the consequences of long-term use.

The University of California admissions situation is relayed most frantically at the LAT, which states that “the number of African Americans accepted by UC Berkeley has plunged 66% and the number admitted to UCLA dropped 43%,” without stating most of the raw numbers behind the percentages. (A common journalistic mistake/trick.) The WP does use the raw numbers when reporting on Berkeley, but unaccountably goes back to emphasizing percentages when discussing UCLA. The NYT also shies away from the actual numbers of students involved, but at least emphasizes the before-and-after-209 minority percentages of the total admitted pool, an illuminating datum. Both the LAT and NYT report that the minority drop occurred despite the university’s decision to give extra consideration to poor applicants, thus proving that in California at least, class isn’t race.

One university official is quoted by the LAT as seeing in the shift the message that California’s secondary schools must improve, while the paper has Prop. 209 architect Ward Connerly saying it means some of the burden for admissions must be put back on black and Latino families and the students themselves. A more striking Connerly quote somehow doesn’t make the cut at either Times, but is in the WP and USAT: “These numbers will finally and conclusively put to rest the lie that we’ve heard for so long from these campuses that race is only one factor in how they choose students..It’s the decisive factor.” (The WP should have, by the way, changed the present tense in that last sentence to the past, which was clearly Connerly’s meaning. USAT gets this right.)

Some questions: Why does the NYT headline only mention the drop in black admissions and relegate the drop for Hispanics to the subhead? Why don’t any of the stories mention the graduation rates for blacks and Hispanics at the two schools under the old regime?

The Wall Street Journal spills a lot of ink on tobacco, with pieces about trial lawyers’ pursuit of anti-tobacco cases, the attempt by the anti-asbestos lobby to tap into any settlement deal, and the political spin on the pending Senate bill. The “Capitol Journal” column paints a picture of a bill in “deep peril,” and of a sharply divided Senate besieged by an “enraged” tobacco industry. In the end, says the paper, it may fall to one man to bring order out of this chaos–Bill Clinton.

Both the LAT and NYT go front-page with the news that an eleven-year-old girl, Emily Rosa, did research for a science fair two years ago as a fourth-grader that is being published today in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. Her project was a refreshingly simple experiment that showed “therapeutic touch” practitioners don’t have a special ability to detect an energy field around human bodies. One question: why does the NYT say she showed that the healers detected a human hand they couldn’t see at a rate “no better than chance” would have predicted, when her results show they scored only 44 percent, which is 6 percent worse?