A previously unpublished program for the children of the Well-to-do may have cost Allan Paul Bakke his opportunity for admission to the University of California Medical School here.
Bakke is the central figure in the impending Supreme Court case which has already made him a litigational celebrity. The high court has agreed to consider his complaint that he was denied admission because the University has set aside 16 of the 100 freshman class places for members of minority groups.
At the time Bakka was denied admission in 1973 and 1974, however, the medical school at Davis had a special procedure giving the dean the right to admit five of the 100 incoming students on his own authority.
Interviews with members of teh admissions committee, medical school professors and medical interns indicate that the dean's special admission authority has been used in behalf of children of the wealthy and well-connected in the local region where the medical school is located.
In one case the medical school dean. Dr. C. John Tupper, intervened in behalf of the admission of the son and daughter-in-law of the chancellor at the Davis campus, Emil Mrak.
"It was the dean's program that kept Bakke out every bit as much as the minority program," said Dr. George Sutherland, a white pediatric intern in Sacramento who made a detailed study of admissions policy at the medical school in the early 1970s.
Tupper says he never had a list of favorite applicants and exercised his admissions authority only to "correct inequities" in the admissions procedure.
The known cases in which Tupper intervened, however, invariably favored children of persons who either had political connections with the university or were influential medical or business people in Sacramento County or adjacent Yolo County, where the medical school is located.
Tupper was also quoted once as saying that he intervened in medical school admissions for "public relations" purposes in a few cases involving the sons and daughters of prominent people in the Davis area. Two cases in which he used his authority were those of Mrak's son and daughter-in-law.
Mrak's view of adnissions policy was contained in a statement he made in 1976, when he was qyoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying:
"The dean should have five or six students a year for the good of the university and the good of the community. If he can't do that, why the hell have a dean? You might as well put a secretary in there."
Such statements angered various members of the University of California Board of Regents when the preferential admissions policy came to light in July, 1976. They instructed the university to draw up procedures limiting such preferential admissions in the future. However, no one in authority related the case to Bakke because at related the case to Bakke because at the time Bakke was a virtually unknown applicant who had lost his bid for medical school admission in Yolo County Superior Court.
The importance of Bakke to the university, and quite possibly to the fate of affirmative-action programs throughout the country, did not become evident until the California Supreme Court ruled in Bakke's favor on Sept. 16, 1976.
University of California general counsel Donald L. Reidhaar acknowledges that a preferential admissions policy favoring well-connected applicants may have existed at the Davis medical school. But he said such practices have now been "relegated to history" and observed that they were never raised in the legal history of the Bakke case.
One of the reasons they were not raised , says Bakke's attorney, Reynold H. Colvin, is that he didn't know of the existence of such policies until long after his involvement in the case. Bakke, he said, never knew about any dean's list but had been told at the time of his application about the existence of "Task Force," the special program that set aside 16 places of the 100 at the medical schools for disadvantaged minority students.
The record upon which Bakke's appeal was carried to the California Supreme Court was therefore based entirely on the question of whether the setting aside of the 16 places - described by Bakke as a "quota" on grounds of race, forbidden by the 14th Amendmant.
Colvin isn't certain whether he would have broadened the scope of Bakke's challenge had he known of the deans intervention in admissions cases. The practice of reserving certain numbers of admissions for the dean is a traditional one at medical schools, and Bakke has never argued that he should be automatically admitted on the basis of his superior grades and test scores.
What he has contended from the outset is that he unquestionably would have been admitted if he had been considered for one of the 100 places in the class instead of for one in 84.
The university disputed this contention at the trial level, where Bakke lost his bid for admission. But it engaged in a strange change of legal tactics before the California Supreme Court, which some critics believe may have reflected the university's unwillingness to give detailed testimony on overall admissions practice, especially on the dean's list.
Originally Dr. George H. Lowrey, then the admissions chairman at the medical school, testified that Bakke would not have been admitted even if the Task Force program had not been in effect. But when the California Supreme Court said that the burden of proof was on the university to show this, the university's lawyer's declined even to contest the issue.
And then, when the university filed a petition for rehearing after the state court had ruled, its lawyers stipulated that given Blake's high credentials it could not prove that he would have been rejected has there been no special places set aside for minorities. Instead, the university chose to argue that the set-aside places fulfilled proper educational objectives of the university.
Medwical school officials have been instructed by Reidhaar not to comment on the university's change in legal strategy. But one Davis professor highly knowledgeable about the admissions procedures said he is "distressed" by what the university lawyers have done because he believes it concedes Bakke's basic allegation when there is no necessity to do so.
If the university had chosen to argue that Bakke would have been rejected even without the 16 positions set aside for minorities, university officials indubitably would have been called upon to provide detailed information about admissions practices. Such testimony could have embarrassed the university if it demonstrated that white applicants with "pull" were favored over Bakke.
The issue is important because Bakkes test scores were so high that he is believed to have been very close to admission. Putting one or two favored white applicants ahead of him on the basis of he dean's authority may have been the difference between admission and rejected.
Bakke's overall grade point average was 3.51 (majoring in engineering at the University of Minnesota), compared with a 3.49 average for regular admittees to the Davis medical school in 1973 and 2.88 for the Task Force admittees. Further, Bakke did well in his 1973 interviews for admission, receiving an overall rating of 468 points out of a passible 500.
A score of 470 in these interviews was considered at the time to be the "threshold score," guaranteeing admission.
Dr. Theodore H. West, the faculty member who interviewed Bakke in 1973, things that he should have been admitted and would have made a good doctor.
"On the grounds of motivation, academic records, potential promise, endorsement by persons capable of reasonable judgements,personal appearance and demeanor, maturity and probably contribution to balance in the class, I believe that Mr. Bakke must be considered as a very desirable applicant to the medical school and I shall so recommend him," West concluded after the interview.
West, now professor of pharmacology at Davis is unwilling to say that Bakke was eliminated by any policy of the dean's observing that most applicants whom the dean interviewed had at least the minimum credentials for admission. The admissions process says West is a good deal more subjecting th
This point is made even more forcefully by Sutherland who concluded in his study that the Davis medical school had no objective admissions practices. In testimony before a state legislative committee Sutherland suggested that the school proclaim a number of medical needs such as supplying doctors for elderly people remote rural areas and urban slums, and relate to each applicant the likely fulfillment of this need.
The committee adopted recommendations, which do not have the force of law, along similar lines.
Dr. Lisa Keller, now an intern at Kaisre Permanente Hospital in Oakland, was a member of the Davis class in 1973, admitted under the regularr admissions policy. She also was a student member of the admission committee in 1974 and says that the dean's intervention in that year favored candidates considered unqualified the admissions committee.
"In one case the dean admitted a candidate, a white woman, who was considered emotionally unqualified to be a physician by both the faculty and student members of the admission committee," Keller said. "The woman had political connections with the university."
She also agreed with Sutherland that there was "a lack of defined criteria for admission to the medical school."
In addition to the dean's preferences and the subjectivity of the process. Bakke may have been damaged when he reapplied for admission in 1974 by the knowledge at the medical school that he challenging the Task Force program and, by inference, the competence of the university in adopting it.
Bakkee did not fare as well in the 1974 interviews as he had the previous year. By the "luck of the draw," as Colvin puts it, he was interviewed by Lowrey, one of the designers of the Task Force program. Lowrey and Bakke dicyssed the issue, apparently with some heat, during the interview and Lowrey found in his recommendation that Bakke was "rather limited in his approach" to problems of the medical profession.
Lowrey gave Bakkee a rating of 86 poihts out of a possible 100, the lowest rating the applicant received in a Davis medical school interview in any year. The other interviews in 1974 year. Bakke scores of 96, 94, 94, 92 and 87 for 549 points out of a possible 600.
Bakke was rejeted a second time for admission which led to his filing the lawsuit that is now before the Supreme Court.
Because of the subjective nature of the admission process, many members of the Task Force who successfully completed medical school at Davis and are now in their medical residencies resent the almost exclusive focus of the Bakke case on the racial issue. Typical of their attitues is the statement of Dr. Toni Johnson-Chavis, a black intern in pediatrics at the University of South California Medical Center.
Johnson-Chavis, the daughter of a low-income Los Angeles couple who made 3.5 grades at Stanford, said that the Bakke case had unfairly given people the idea that minority members admitted to Davis were necessarily inferior.
"This is grossly unfair," she said. "The people who were let in for special reasons were rich, white people had poworer grades than Bakke.
Why not complain about these people? Why single out the 16 students in Task Force?"