Affirmative Action – Harming Asians Most

I hate how Asians are stereotyped as being “superior” to Whites in college admissions, which forces them to limit their ranges of Asian students in incoming classes. That combined with the need to have diverse females and males screws over Asians. I was told by a former UPenn admissions officer that the worst demographic to be is “Asian Male” for all the reasons you can think of.

The NYT article “Little Asia on the Hill” explores the little known problem of Affirmative Action that affects Asian Americans. The article begins by describing how UC Berkley had a record high for Asians in their freshman class and what it was like for a student to be among such a large population of Asian students in the university.

But 10 years after California passed Proposition 209, voting to eliminate racial preferences in the public sector, university administrators find such balance harder to attain. At the same time, affirmative action is being challenged on a number of new fronts, in court and at state ballot boxes. And elite colleges have recently come under attack for practicing it — specifically, for bypassing highly credentialed Asian applicants in favor of students of color with less stellar test scores and grades.

There have been long running suspicions among the Asian American community that they were often denied admission or wait-listed to make room for other students considered to be “disadvantaged minorities”. I find it interesting that although universities pride themselves on being tolerant and diverse, their admissions office uses a combination of stereotypes and impossible standards to create what they believe to be an incoming class with “perfect diversity”. It seems absurd that admissions officials would assess an Asian student at a much higher standard than his White counterparts because they are a supposedly superior “Model Minority” while judging African-Americans and Hispanics at a much lower standard using Whites as a neutral benchmark because they are implied to be inferior “disadvantaged minorities”. Additionally, it is even more racist to use Whites as a neutral standard in judging which groups are superior to receive harder burdens from the admissions officers, while using a lesser standard on the other groups, which appear to reaffirm the age-old American perception that Asians are superior while Blacks/Hispanics are not.

Asians have become the “new Jews,” in the phrase of Daniel Golden, whose recent book, “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates,” is a polemic against university admissions policies. Mr. Golden, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is referring to evidence that, in the first half of the 20th century, Ivy League schools limited the number of Jewish students despite their outstanding academic records to maintain the primacy of upper-class Protestants. Today, he writes, “Asian-Americans are the odd group out, lacking racial preferences enjoyed by other minorities and the advantages of wealth and lineage mostly accrued by upper-class whites. Asians are typecast in college admissions offices as quasi-robots programmed by their parents to ace math and science.”

As if to illustrate the point, a study released in October by the Center for Equal Opportunity, an advocacy group opposing race-conscious admissions, showed that in 2005 Asian-Americans were admitted to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, at a much lower rate (54 percent) than black applicants (71 percent) and Hispanic applicants (79 percent) — despite median SAT scores that were 140 points higher than Hispanics and 240 points higher than blacks.

To force the issue on a legal level, a freshman at Yale filed a complaint in the fall with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, contending he was denied admission to Princeton because he is Asian. The student, Jian Li, the son of Chinese immigrants in Livingston, N.J., had a perfect SAT score and near-perfect grades, including numerous Advanced Placement courses.

“This is just a very, very egregious system,” Mr. Li told me. “Asians are held to different standards simply because of their race.”

To back his claim, he cites a 2005 study by Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung, both of Princeton, which concludes that if elite universities were to disregard race, Asians would fill nearly four of five spots that now go to blacks or Hispanics. Affirmative action has a neutral effect on the number of whites admitted, Mr. Li is arguing, but it raises the bar for Asians. The way Princeton selects its entering class, Mr. Li wrote in his complaint, “seems to be a calculated move by a historically white institution to protect its racial identity while at the same time maintaining a facade of progressivism.”

Private institutions can commit to affirmative action, even with state bans, but federal money could be revoked if they are found to be discriminating. Mr. Li is seeking suspension of federal financial assistance to Princeton. “I’m not seeking anything personally,” he says. “I’m happy at Yale. But I grew up thinking that in America race should not matter.”

Affirmative Action is not a Black and White issue as most people are led to believe although it seems that way because of the lack of Asian voices in this controversial issue. The 2005 study also pointed out that Asian applicants had to score at least 50 points higher on the SAT than other applicants just to get an equal chance for admission Blacks and Hispanics still have a strong chance even if they score 200 and 185 points below other applicants. The URL to access the Princeton study is

I am troubled that elite universities in the past have limited admission from Jewish students in a sad attempt to preserve WASP culture and now I am troubled that universities are making an effort to limit Asian students in an attempt to promote diversity to accommodate certain minorities. What is more disturbing is that Asians as a minority group have lower admission rates than other defined minority groups in universities despite meeting or exceeding admission requirements. After universities such as Berkeley removed Affirmative Action, diversity was still intact except there was a decrease of certain minority groups that would have gotten in from this generally flawed system.

“I’ve heard from Latinos and blacks that Asians should not be considered a minority at all,” says Elaine Kim, a professor of Asian-American studies at Berkeley. “What happened after they got rid of affirmative action has been a disaster — for blacks and Latinos. And for Asians it’s been a disaster because some people think the campus has become all-Asian.”

In spite of all the controversy, Affirmative Action is actually promoting racial tensions to a large extent. It had been noted that Whites who complained about Affirmative Action sound like racists, now African-Americans and Hispanics who complain about the removal of the system are developing hostile attitudes towards Asians who have been increasingly admitted in universities that have merit-based admissions in their place. At the same time, diversity has dropped which does take away from the college experience for a large extent based on observations on Busch and Livingston campus versus the diverse student life on College Avenue.

One leading critic of bringing affirmative action back to Berkeley is David A. Hollinger, chairman of its history department and author of “Post-Ethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism.” He supported racial preferences before Proposition 209, but is no longer so sure. “You could argue that the campus is more diverse now,” because Asians comprise so many different cultures, says Dr. Hollinger. A little more than half of Asian freshmen at Berkeley are Chinese, the largest group, followed by Koreans, East-Indian/Pakistani, Filipino and Japanese.

Dr. Birgeneau agrees on at least one point: “I think we’re now at the point where the category of Asian is not very useful. Koreans are different from people from Sri Lanka and they’re different than Japanese. And many Chinese-Americans are a lot like Caucasians in some of their values and areas of interest.”

The system used to categorise minorities is also flawed. Both individuals point out that Asians are made up of several ethnic groups such as Chinese, Korean, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese and it is extremely insulting to consider each ethnicity as one and the same. Despite this, Hollinger makes a valid point that diversity did not decrease when Affirmative Action was abolished in those university, but it actually grew due to the increased numbers of Asians that are able to mingle with one another more than ever.

Personally, I would replace race-based affirmative action with socioeconomic affirmative action containing a merit-based component. I think that affirmative action should address actual inequity, rather than historical inequity faced by others of the same skin color. So if we can address socioeconomic disadvantage, there is no reason use old stereotypes to set different admission standards for minorities at the expense of Asians.


4 thoughts on “Affirmative Action – Harming Asians Most

  1. I am an Asian and a woman. I would be thankful not to be a part of minority population that qualifies for affirmative action. I do not need upliftment in the name of my race. I think I have more respect in the eyes of my peers just becuase I am able and willing to compete with the mainstream to find my place under the sun! I would be appalled to be thought of as an affirmative action placement in school or workplace.

  2. It doesn’t matter what your views on Affirmative Action are because it still harms Asians due to their ethnicity by limiting opportunities for them in academics and work in favour of so-called underrepresented minorities.

    I am told by Model Minority stereotypes and liberals that Asians should take the double-standards under Affirmative Action because all Asians are “overrepresented” and “successful”.

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