Press Releases

October 30, 2020

UC Regents Required to Stop Using SAT and ACT in Admissions and Scholarship Processes

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2020

Media Contact: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312,


The California Court of Appeal rejected the University of California’s second attempt to stay

 preliminary injunction order

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – October 30, 2020 – The University of California system will not be able to consider SAT and ACT scores in just two days when it begins accepting applications for Fall 2021 enrollment, the California First District Court of Appeal held yesterday. The Court’s decision keeps in place the preliminary injunction won by the plaintiffs in Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California.

“The SAT and ACT are history, and a sordid one at that,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project. “Score a major victory for the students who took on the UC Regents and advanced the anti-racism movement in a big way that will open up opportunities for higher education far too long denied them through these racist, discriminatory tests.” 

In denying UC’s petition to stay the injunction, the Court held that UC failed to show that it would be irreparably harmed if its campuses were required to stop using discriminatory tests. By contrast, Plaintiffs have argued that every admissions cycle in which UC continues to use the tests needlessly and irreparably damages the futures of tens of thousands of students who are capable of excelling at the University.

“This is a very uncertain time for students with disabilities, especially those who have any anxiety surrounding their health and COVID,” said Plaintiff Stephen C. “It is a relief to have one type of uncertainty resolved. Now we know for sure that we do not have to worry about all of the issues that come along with the SAT and ACT: registering to test, finding a test center that will accept us with our accommodations, performing as well on the SAT or ACT as we should, given our setbacks, or being judged unfairly if we don’t submit a test score. This is reassuring”

Lisa Holder, Los Angeles-based civil rights attorney, noted, “The Regents pursued this obstructionist path despite the pandemic and the added danger that test taking represented to students. Now it’s time for the Regents to accept the inevitable and show some leadership, integrity, and grace.”

At the end of August, Judge Brad Seligman of the Alameda Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction ordering UC not to use SAT or ACT scores in its admissions and scholarships for the duration of the lawsuit. The decision rejected UC’s creation of a two-tier testing system that systematically disadvantaged students with disabilities. It recognized that under UC’s so-called “test-optional” policy, SAT and ACT scores would have afforded privileged, non-disabled students a “plus factor” or “second look” in admissions and scholarship determinations that would have been denied to less privileged students and students with disabilities who are unable to access the tests.

“UC’s refusal to let go of tests it admits are discriminatory carries immense costs—to California taxpayers, who are funding the University’s decision to protract this lawsuit; to the State of California, because clinging to the tests undermines UC’s mission to serve students from all backgrounds; and most critically, to hundreds of thousands of high school seniors, whom UC has kept in the dark about the Court’s order,” said Amanda Savage, Staff Attorney at Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project.

UC’s petition to stay the Court’s order was only its most recent attempt to preserve as an admissions and scholarship factor test scores that its leaders admit are racist, classist, and unrelated to UC preparedness. In continuing to defend the tests, UC has placed itself at odds with the current movement for civil rights and racial justice. Amicus briefs detailing these positions were filed by the ACLU and the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund on behalf of leading State and national civil rights organizations.

“UC has used these tests to outsource its discrimination against students with disabilities long enough. It’s time UC took responsibility and lived up to its responsibilities to ensure that all students have the opportunity to show what they’re really capable of,” said attorney Eve Hill of Brown Goldstein & Levy.

 Laura Kazan, Executive Director of organizational plaintiff College Seekers, described the situation for students: “California’s students with disabilities, including those who are College Seekers members, have found it impossible to find SAT and ACT sites that will accommodate them. With only a short time to spare before admissions decisions, students can finally relax knowing they will be treated fairly in admissions without submitting scores.” 

 “Students are living in times of unprecedented uncertainty, and they deserve to know for certain that they will not face discrimination by the University of California for applying without SAT or ACT test scores,” said Marci Lerner Miller of Miller Advocacy Group. 

The Court of Appeal, in its decision, emphasized that only three of the nine UC campuses still want to use the test: UCLA, UCSD, and UC Davis.

“Just days before UC-aspiring students must submit their applications, the Court of Appeal has affirmed that these young people will not be denied admission based on discriminatory tests or due to the lack of fair and equal access to testing.  We stand in awe of our clients who are challenging this rigged system,” said Katherine Farkas at Scheper Kim & Harris

The plaintiffs in Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California are five individual students and six organizations: College Access Plan, Little Manila Rising, Dolores Huerta Foundation, College Seekers, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Community Coalition. They are represented by Public Counsel, Scheper Kim & Harris, Equal Justice Society, Miller Advocacy Group, and Brown Goldstein & Levy. Plaintiff Compton Unified School District, in the consolidated case Compton Unified School District v. Regents of the University of California, is represented by Olivarez Madruga Lemieux O’Neill.




Read the Court of Appeal decision here.