• A court injunction blocked the University of California from using SAT, ACT scores as part of its latest round of admissions due to coronavirus
  • UC has been embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit since December 2019 challenging the use of standardized tests in admissions on discriminatory grounds
  • UC Berkley has dropped the use of standardized tests in admissions and the UC Board of Regents will drop it by 2025 if a suitable replacement isn't found

A California superior court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the University of California system from using SAT or ACT when evaluating applications for the upcoming admission season.

The ruling was handed down by an Alameda County judge as part of a monthslong lawsuit challenging the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions.

Judge Brad Seligman pointed to the coronavirus pandemic and the limitations it has placed on available testing sites as a primary reason for the injunction.

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites,” Seligman said in the ruling. “While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test are 'almost nil'.”

However, University of California officials disagreed with Seligman’s ruling.

“An injunction may interfere with the University's efforts to implement an appropriate and comprehensive admissions policies and its ability to attract and enroll students of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” a UC spokesperson said in a press release.

Tuesday’s ruling and injunction could have national ramifications, as well, since the University of California is the largest university system in the U.S. Students and advocate groups have argued standardized tests do not accurately reflect a student’s academic ability and should be dropped.

Five students, whose names have not been released, and six student advocacy groups filed the lawsuit against the UC system in December 2019. The suit alleged UC knowingly engaged in discriminatory practices against disabled students and students of color, with SAT and ACT test scores acting as a barrier of entry for many of these students.

One example the suit pointed to was UC’s “test optional” policy, which the suit said provided privileged and non-disabled students who took the SAT or ACT another look during admissions season. Disabled and under-privileged students, on the other hand, were not afforded that chance if they could not take either test.

“Today’s legal action finally changes the conversation from a policy one to a legal one,” Public Counsel Directing Attorney Mark Rosenbaum said in a December press release. “Use of the SAT/ACT is not merely bad policy; it violates the California Constitution and anti-discrimination statutes, and is therefore legally and morally impermissible. Students should not have to endure the stress and expense of preparing for and taking the SAT, and the admissions process should no longer be contaminated by this discriminatory metric.”

UC Berkley has since stopped using SAT and ACT scores as part of its admissions process.

The UC Board of Regents also voted unanimously in May 2020 to waive standardized testing requirements until 2024. The board said if a new test isn’t introduced by 2025, then the standardized testing requirement would be dropped completely.

Students gather on the campus of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, among the schools suspending in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns
Students gather on the campus of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, among the schools suspending in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns AFP / Robyn Beck