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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

Evan Burns & UCLA:   Newspaper
Writer's Source In Doubt?--(Aug. 21, 2002)

Today's Daily News and Long Beach Press Telegram both ran a story which, unless you're a lawyer, an English professor or an etymologist (or some combination of the three), we'd recommend you read and re-read before simply paying attention to the headline.  In fact, after reading the story several times ourselves, we wondered whether there was really any "story" there at all.    You be the judge.  

Here's the story excerpted from the Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Burns' eligibility in doubt
By Billy Witz
Staff writer 

With the start of fall classes one month away, UCLA star basketball recruit Evan Burns is still awaiting word on whether he'll be academically eligible to play for the Bruins this season. 

Burns, an All-American forward at Fairfax High, did not have enough credits to graduate from the school in June, according to one source. Since then he has been busy taking classes in an effort to be eligible at UCLA.

He took classes during a summer session at Santa Monica City College that ended Aug. 2, according to another source. Three days later he began a six-week session at UCLA, which concludes Sept.13, 10 days before the start of the fall semester.

"He's been admitted (to school) pending the completion of the admissions process,' said UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins, who declined to comment further citing student privacy.

Ok, let's examine this story a little more carefully:

The first aspect of this "story" is the headline.  Burns' eligibility "in doubt?"  

Well, only if you assume the truth of the second paragraph, which states, in pertinent part:

Burns. . . did not have enough credits to graduate from [Fairfax HS] June, according to one source.

Now, is this true, or not? Who knows.....Certainly not the DN/LBPT, otherwise it would have been stated as a fact and not attributed to an anonymous "source." 

Who is the "source?"  Is it the high school?  Well, it can't be.  Or at least it shouldn't be.   The Federal "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" (FERPA) is a Federal law designed to protect the privacy of a student's education records.  High schools can't and don't comment on such things.  They are prohibited by law from doing so.  If someone at the high school revealed a student's transcripts or grades, or disclosed whether a student "did not have enough credits to graduate" they should be dealt with appropriately.  Of course that won't happen because the "source" is not identified.  Was the "source" the student involved (Evan Burns) or his legal guardian (his father or mother)?   Not likely.  If it was, then why not simply say so?  Why an anonymous "source?"

Evidently, if we can believe the story, Evan Burns has been taking courses at SMC and will also take courses at UCLA's second summer session.  Ok, so does this advance the headline or the pitch that his "eligibility is in doubt?"  No.

Does the story shed any light on whether Burns has met with success in these courses?  Is there any evidence that his admission to UCLA is any more or less "in doubt" or "assured" than it was two or three months ago?   Read the story again.

To gain an understanding about why this story sheds no new light on whether Evan Burns will or will not be in a Bruin uniform this fall, one must also gain an understanding of the UC admission process.  We're not usually in the habit of quoting from other site's message board postings,  but occassionally, someone gets it right.  Probably the best take of the day was this one posted by abualmaz (a real person who works at UCLA, and who left his UCLA e-mail address in the post) on August 21, 2002 at 09:54:32 on Bruinzone:

While I don't want to be pedantic, Witz' article would seem to need some minor correction & clarification. Since he gets cited a good deal & serves as "a source" for any number of us, it seems important for him to get the details right & to provide his readers with a fair & accurate representation especially of the personal & academic situations of the students.  

So, as one who has some experience with student advising at UCLA, let me "correct" & provide a little context.

1. The fall term begins on Sept. 23rd but classes don't start until Thursday, Sept. 26th. (Closer to 5 weeks from now rather than a month--but let's give Witz a little literary license.)

2. UCLA is on the quarter system, not the semester system as Witz states. (The law school is on the semester system.)

3. Witz states that Burns has been admitted pending completion of the admission process. There is nothing unusual in this. Completion of the admission process requires documentation of graduation, completion of requirements, etc., from the student's high school/JC, & then all of this must be processed by UCLA admissions. This frequently lasts well into the fall term.

4. So, WHAT is the story about? Burns has to complete requirements to get admitted. Other students entering UCLA in the fall are in similar circumstances. It looks as though he is doing what he needs to do.

5. So, WHY has Witz written this story? I guess only he, & perhaps his editors, know(s). Is there anything newsworthy in this story? I think not. 

6. Are there ethical issues here? I suspect so. How about fairness (to Burns) issues? I suspect so.

As another poster (Bruin Steve) noted on both Bruinzone and Bruin Report Online (I'm told it was posted there in the premium, subscription-only forum):

...Every recruit (or any other student for that matter) who is admitted is really only conditionally admitted... Obviously, a condition every admittee has is that they complete their high school academics and graduate from high school...and also that they complete the University's "core" requirements. Many years ago, UCLA went to a system of basing eligibility for enrollment not on overall high school record, but on specific "a to f" core requirements...such as "at least two years of math, two years of science, one year of American History, etc."...It's a way to make things fair and not allow some kids to get in though having avoided certain basic subjects in high school while taking a schedule of wood shop, cooking and music appreciation...

...A few years back, the NCAA went to the same sort of qualification...When you hear about the Prop 48 standards...the sliding scale of GPA to SAT/ACT scores, the GPA is based solely on "core" that kids don't qualify by getting four years of As in Metal shop to counterbalance 4 Fs in math and science and end up with a 2.0...

This same poster, Bruin Steve, who evidently has "sources" which are at least as anonymous, and at least as accurate and reliable as the Daily News' sources, suggests the following:

From my sources, what Evan is short on is neither GPA nor SAT...both are within both the NCAAs and UCLA's guidelines...Where he falls short is that over the years of high school. he came up short on a couple of those "core" classes...(But, no, I don't know which ones they were)... Either, he never took them or dropped them before completion...So, for example, let's say he needed to have two years of science but only completed one...he would need to complete those two classes to both become eligible and also to complete the requirements that UCLA Admissions placed on him...It is also my understanding that he merely needs to pass these classes...If so, everything else will be sufficient for both UCLA admission and for NCAA eligibility...

...Due to the Summer school schedules at SMC and UCLA, it was possible to enroll in both sessions and split the requirements so as not to take them both at the same time...Evan has completed the SMC session, pending final class grades and is now entering UCLA's late Summer session...

Finally, Bruin Steve concludes, as all of us who are neither in the UCLA admissions office or who aren't named "Evan Burns," can only conclude:  That we really don't know anything and won't know anything about Evan's admission status until the University either unconditionally accepts him or doesn't:

Nothing anyone knows about Evan indicates anything other than he is a pretty good bet to pass the required classes... Upon the completion of the last such class, Evan will both be unconditionally accepted into UCLA and be eligible under NCAA guidelines...To give the impression of anything else--or of anything unexpected thus far---is just reckless...Yes, it would be preferable to have all of our recruits completely qualified by their high school graduation, but, as long as UCLA Admissions is fine with this arrangement, so should we be...

So, is this really a newsworthy story?    Well, if Burns doesn't complete his admission requirements,  then we can all say that the Daily News got the "scoop."

And of course, if that comes to pass, it will be one of the saddest "scoops" of all.

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