#AAPI groups & writing in support of affirmative action | #IAmNotYourWedge #BlockBlum


With Monday’s news of two lawsuits filed by a conservative anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum hoping to challenge affirmative action policies by framing the debate around purported anti-Asian bias in selective universities’ admissions policies, the AAPI community has been once again thrust into the spotlight in the national affirmative action debate. Opponents of affirmative action suggest that these latest legal efforts are on behalf of the AAPI community. They suggest that most AAPIs are against race-conscious affirmative action, yet several studies reveal that more than 65% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders support affirmative action, both in professional and academic settings.

It’s important that we accurately represent the political opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by rendering our support for affirmative action visible.

Earlier this year, I aggregated a list of AAPI groups and writing in support of affirmative action in relation to the SCA5 debate in California. I have replicated and modified that list in this post, and will update it over the next several months with additional writing from around the internet.

Please feel free to link to this post as a resource regarding the attitudes of AAPI on affirmative action in the upcoming national debate on this issue. The abundance of this writing demonstrate clearly that while affirmative action is a polarizing topic within the AAPI community, there is strong and vocal support for race-conscious affirmative action in our community that deserves visibility.


Last updated: Jan 21, 2015

Non-Profit Organizations and Advocacy Groups

Blog Posts, Op-Eds & Other Writing

[M]ost Asian American civil rights and community service organizations maintain that affirmative action is an important way to ensure equity and diversity in higher education, including among disadvantaged Pacific Islanders and Asian groups such as Cambodians and Laotians.

SCA 5 would make a small difference to highly represented student populations like Chinese Americans, but it would make a big difference to improve college access for other highly qualified but underrepresented students such as Hmong, Cambodians, Laotian, Samoans, African Americans, and Latinos among others. Not only would underrepresented Asian American and Pacific Islander students directly benefit from SCA 5, all Asian American students benefit from more diverse campus learning environments.

The benefit of broad public investment on communities of color will be magnified by affirmative action, and should therefore not be won at it’s expense.

SCA5 is an attempt to rectify the negative effect that prop 209 had on minority enrollment in California’s public colleges and universities by allowing race to be considered as one of many factors in admissions decisions. Such admissions policies are in place in many states across the country, and do not involve the imposition of quotas which were determined to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Regents of University of California v. Bakke decision of 1978.

[U]ntil I see Asians rallying with equal fervency against the unfairness of impoverished schools, the many Latino and black kids in underperforming school districts, living in areas of violence, drugs, broken families, and hardship, which, unsurprisingly, leads to it being much more difficult to do well in school (especially if you may be the first kid in your family to go to college), I am going to vote Yes on SCA5.

Affirmative action is more than desirable — it is essential to efforts to combat social inequality. It is a positive and proscriptive, if only partial, solution to toxic social inequalities that would otherwise continue to ossify. It’s time that California put itself back on a path toward social equity.

Ironically, many of the Asian Americans against SCA 5 are in the scientific community, where they see discrimination based on race or accent every day at their labs. For them, the remedy has been simple. They have always relied on working hard, scoring the highest in exams, and displaying their credentials to prove their worth and become successful.

It’s what they know, and it can make sense in some contexts. In a true meritocracy, maybe it should.

But even they know, it doesn’t always work in fighting the racism that people of color still face in America.

For true equity and fairness, SCA 5 and the repeal of Prop. 209 makes sense for all.

The debate over affirmative action raises unique considerations for Asian Americans.  While research has shown that a substantial majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action, some vocal opponents of SCA5 have claimed the bill would have dramatic negative consequences for Asian Americans applicants.  These claims are unfounded.  Speaking both as a law professor who has taught in the UC school system and as a proud Asian American, I believe that Asian Americans should support SCA5 in the California legislature and affirmative action in higher education nationwide. Here are ten reasons:

While I don’t agree with the protests against SCA 5, I do appreciate the fact that so many Asian parents are getting involved politically, signing petitions and voicing their opinions to their elected officials. Your pressure on Asian American State Senators caused them to withdraw their support of the bill, effectively preventing SCA 5 from going to the ballot this November. Perhaps your taste of participatory democracy will help you see that Asian America doesn’t just need engineers and doctors, but also elected leaders, journalists, and organizers. Take some time to learn about the history of Asian America and the leaders who have paved the way for us. Do your research, especially when it comes to matters of law and government. And most importantly, accept your children’s God-given talents and encourage them to flourish in their areas of interest.

While the student body need not be an exact mirror of the state’s population, as a state, we need to do a better job of educating students from underrepresented communities while ensuring that all communities feel heard and respected. Even within the Asian Pacific Islander American community, we need to be doing a better job of providing representation for Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians in higher education. At UC Berkeley, the rate of admission of Pacific Islanders is even lower than the rate for underrepresented ethnicities as a whole.7

…Some might say that I am arguing against my own self-interest.  But I–an Asian American of Chinese and Korean descent and a son of the great state of California–am actually a beneficiary of the type of community that can be built by measures like SCA5. I am one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, thanks to the California assembly, students at our public universities can’t say the same.

But this “hardworking immigrants” narrative is only a small part of the story. The opportunities my parents and I had were only possible because of the long fight for civil rights and political recognition led by black Americans. The university doors that I so easily walked through in 1995 were opened by civil rights activists who demanded access for all Americans, not just their own group. Yet many of the anti-affirmative action activists in the Asian-American community seem to have forgotten this important history.

There is a more important reason that Asian-Americans should support affirmative action: basic justice. In surveys, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans report the same levels of expectation for graduating from college. Blacks and Latinos also invest as much in and value education at the same levels as Asian-Americans, once one controls for differential resources, such as income.

[R]acial diversity is necessary in higher education to create a healthy educational environment for ALL students. Affirmative Action IS NOT a quota system, and it will NOT let in more “underqualified” students. That’s crap. No school will admit any student that is not qualified for that specific school.

Affirmative Action will bring opportunity to the many that are just as qualified to have a rightful place in the UC system. Under-representation is the cold truth of the UC system right now, for blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and yes, even for South Asians and Southeast Asians.

To all the AAPI against SCA5: The nature of the discourse is disappointing. SCA5 will NOT limit the success of Asian Americans in higher education, and it will NOT set a “quota” on AAPI admissions. Equal opportunity for all races in higher education is just and fair.

The white dominated reality of 21st century America requires people of color, including Asian Americans, to stand up for each other. I have been heartened by the many conversations and activists across the country that I’ve met over Twitter on these divisive issues, and the strength they show to stand in solidarity with one another.

Now, this solidarity needs to expand. Asian America can no longer afford to be quiet, and as recent developments have shown, we do have the force to invoke change when we stand up. We just need to stand up for the right reasons now to be on the right side of history.

This Article argues that although there are many real issues that result from the dramatically changing demographics of the country, the dilemma of Asian Americans and affirmative action should be understood as an issue which has been manufactured for political

If you couldn’t already tell from my last name, I’m Asian-American. During the admissions process, I didn’t exactly feel that my race helped me gain my acceptance letters. But do I think that abandoning affirmative action — that “forgetting” about race in the application process — is the route colleges ought to take? In short, no.

The model minority myth, perpetuated by this lawsuit, is among the latest weapons being deployed against Black and Latina/o students.

So how to address the problem – certainly not by throwing rocks at each other, perhaps in frustration over the misdirection of Fisher, but by coming together to discuss the issues, mediate our differences, and go forward on a critical issue for aspiring Asian American and indeed all students in the nation.

What [Edward Blum’s] lawsuit is really is just the latest attempt to derail an apparatus that has given hundreds of thousands of blacks, Hispanics and, yes, Asians a means to climb out of circumstances defined by our society’s historical racism.

As Asian-identified students attending UNC, we believe this lawsuit is misguided and ignores the importance of addressing racial inequalities and histories of discrimination in the United States, especially in the South. Although the current system isn’t perfect, education cannot remain a tool to continue elite and privileged white domination.

As a public institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a duty to reflect education toward state demographics — especially within a campus where Asian-Americans are over-represented at 15 percent of the class of 2018. We cannot ignore almost one-third of the state’s population who identifies as African-American or Latina/o. 

Though the lawsuit seems to fight affirmative action, it entirely lacks reasoning in the first place. Harvard University is a private educational institute that does not take public money as major funding source. Getting into Harvard requires applicants to meet some commonly agreed upon criteria, but they should realize that meeting those criteria, such as test scores and perfect GPAs, does not guarantee admission. Many colleges specify a variety of admission requirements but none of them openly says applicants will be admitted if they meet some or all of the requirements. The right of admission should be entirely reserved to colleges themselves, especially private colleges.

…I do not intend to take any stand on affirmative action, nor do I lecture colleges to conduct some specific admission requirements. I defend the rights reserved to colleges in terms of determining their own admission criteria and preferences.

[I]t’s far from clear whether the success of [Edward Blum’s] lawsuit would benefit Asian Americans. We have always been typecast as interchangeable, blank-faced robots, a stereotype that in my view will only get worse if we don’t strive to compete on the “holistic” scale. What is clear is that the legal challenge doesn’t reflect the wishes of the Asian American community.

A sizable number of Asian Americans feel that affirmative action, in college admissions or elsewhere, has hurt them personally. Still, as Asian American columnist and Harvard alum Jeff Yang points out in a recent column, a supermajority of Asian Americans, 69 percent, support affirmative action. So on whose behalf is the lawsuit being filed? Not the vast proportion of Asian Americans.

Despite the stories of disgruntled Asian Americans documented in the Harvard lawsuit, polling dataindicate that the majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action. Numerous studies also document that Asian American college students benefit from engaging with racial diversity during the college years, which prepares Asian American — and all — college students to compete in a global economy. These stories are heard less in the affirmative action battle, but they are no less important.

[T]he public has a very narrow view of what counts as an “excellent” college, often dictated by various national rankings, which artificially inflates the reputation of and rejection rates for a small set of institutions. By being among the most enthusiastic contributors to such market driven demands, as Asian Americans are already overrepresented at elite  institutions, we help sustain an educational industry that thrives on exclusion.

After all, approximately 1,800 Asian Americans are enrolled in undergraduate studies at Harvard whereas over 200,000 Asian Americans are enrolled in community colleges in California alone. Even if we doubled the enrollment of Asian Americans on each of the eight Ivy League campuses, they would still only serve a small fraction of Asian American students compared to community colleges that serve approximately 40 percent of all Asian American undergraduates enrolled in US higher education. In the long run, addressing issues such as high school drop-out, access to financial aid, community college transfer, or remedial education — which directly affect a greater number of Asian American families — will have a more positive and lasting societal impact.

I wouldn’t be an English professor today were it not for affirmative action… Far from being racist, the rationale for affirmative action is, in fact, antiracist. According to law professor Cheryl Harris, affirmative action has been the only institutional intervention against the entitlements historically derived from white identity.

Community Leaders

  • Henry Der, former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction and former Chair of the California Postsecondary Education Commission – reported here
  • Judy Ki, Commissioner, California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs – reported here

Is this post missing anything? Please leave a comment with more links, and I will update this post!

Act Now: Please sign 18MillionRising’s petition here: Edward Blum, We Won’t Be Used For Your Racist Agenda!

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  • Sinna D

    Since the topic of this piece is the impact of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, Jenn, can we stick to that and not digress ?
    Why would anyone need this minority quota crutch if he/she can get admission on the academic qualifications alone??
    Isn’t it the case with the Asian students?
    If someone needs to lean on the minority crutch to get in, what does that tell you ??
    Now do you still have any doubts about the effect of this Affirmative Action crutch ??

  • Observer8710

    I disagree with you on affirmative action. When i graduated, I have seen Asian friends not accepted to certain colleges while those with weaker academic credentials make it in. My younger brother also saw this happen.
    In regards to managerial positions – these positions are usually obtained through networking (be part of the gang), and are fitted to the most outgoing people – a trait which most Asians do not possess.
    I am Asian, but the ceiling I am seeing is caused by the lack of networking between Asians. Often, we compete with each other more than help one another.

  • james2418

    I don’t think Affirmitive Action has a large impact on admissions to Ivies for Asians, but there is good evidence that there is some sort of quota on Asians, at least when you look at scholastic aptitude. Asian admittees have higher scores on average. The percentage of Asians in matriculating bodies has remained constant over recent years, while the percentage of Asians among top test scorers has increased, not to mention among the general population. As I have not read the exact language of the lawsuit, is it about Affirmitive Action specifically or is it about anti-Asian practices?

  • The lawsuit conflates affirmative action with negative action. I’ve argued previously that the current data — for example the data presented by Espenshade — may support evidence of ongoing negative action against Asian Americans in college admissions, but (as ulysses notes below) is a separate issue from affirmative action. The lawsuit asserts that affirmative action should be dismantled on the basis of possible negative action, so yes, it is using potential anti-Asian policies to attack affirmative action.

  • can we stick to that and not digress ?

    Except that you argue that the problem with affirmative action is that “in the name of diversity, mediocre students [are admitted]”. You are also the first to raise the question of athletics scholarships. If your issue is with the admittance of mediocre students, then you should oppose any consideration of factors that extend beyond the few that you deem as merit-based. You should oppose legacy, athletic scholarships, and early decision.

    If you do, then you are arguing for a strict “SAT/GPA only” system, in which case I hope you are equally as vociferous about legacy admissions. If you do not, then you fundamentally argue that campus diversity is not a “compelling interest”. Thus, it becomes important to answer this question regarding legacy and athletics in order to understand your perspective. Do you oppose ALL “mediocre students”, or only those Black and Brown students that you perceive are “mediocre students”?

    Why would anyone need this minority quota crutch if he/she can get admission on the academic qualifications alone??

    To be clear, minority quotas are illegal. All students currently admitted under systems that include race-conscious affirmative action are fully academically qualified. Race-conscious affirmative action is a process of filtering an applicant pool that contains too many qualified applicants, not a process of “cutting in line”. Your framing appears to misunderstand the process.

    Isn’t it the case with the Asian students?

    No. If an Asian American student is considered under holistic review, then all factors of their admission package, including their race or ethnicity is considered; this is most students who receive a Harvard admission, as it is not clear that the school employs a “Top 10%” rule. Very few students get in “on their academic qualifications alone”, except in select states where Top 10% rules are in effect. At select institutions like Harvard, a large pool of applicants undergo holistic review, where their quantitative scores are only one of hundreds of factors being considered. Asian American students — like all students — who are admitted to places like Harvard are not the students for whom only their grades mattered, they are the students whose packages helped them stand out from the pack. Those students who did not receive admission letters are, quite simply, students who failed to distinguish themselves from the thousands of other students who scored equally as well and who are equally as deserving of a Harvard admission. This is, by the way, why the essay section of the college admissions packet is the most important part of the application.

    I feel sorry for the applicant in the Fair Admissions lawsuit that he or she did not get a Harvard admit letter. But, that student is unlike thousands of other students — White, Asian, Black or Brown — who deserve a Harvard admission and who for whatever combination of reasons simply didn’t stand out. There are lots of people who deserve a Harvard education; no one is guaranteed a Harvard education.

    Now do you still have any doubts about the effect of this Affirmative Action crutch

    Restating your position is not supporting your position. It is just repeating yourself.

  • I have seen Asian friends not accepted to certain colleges while those with weaker academic credentials make it in.

    I appreciate your comment, Observer. The issue, however, is your presumption of the weight placed on SAT scores or GPA, that would form the basis of your assertion about students with “weaker academic credentials”. Let’s assume, for example, that your anecdote is based on students denied admission with a 1550 SAT score (on the 1600 point scale) while others received an admission with a 1450 SAT score. This may describe the scenario you refer to.

    Yet, there is a fallacy associated with asserting that the 1450 SAT score represents a student of “weaker academic credentials” than the 1550 SAT score.

    First: that we are capable of ranking two numbers leads to the belief that a ranking of two numbers is meaningful. But, that someone scores higher on the SAT than someone else doesn’t necessarily mean they have demonstrated more merit. Let’s say you have two kids, for example, who both take the SATs; one scores a 1590, and the other a 1580. Will you tell your children that one is smarter, more hard-working, or more deserving of higher education than the other? Chances are you won’t, you will recognize that the difference between a 1590 and a 1580 is moot, and both of your kids basically scored equally as well.

    Thus, most of us understand the margin of error issue with the SAT score, but set a margin of error far smaller than the test’s actual error. Consider: any same individual who takes the test multiple times is expected to score within a range as large as 100 points. The SATs are extremely poor predictors of first-year college success. Finally, the College Board which adminsters the SAT, does not believe it is an indicator of merit. So, within the range of SAT scores that are relevant to Harvard admissions — all Harvard students admitted score within the top 99th percentile regardless of affirmative action — is there meaningful difference between their SAT scores? Is the small mean difference in SAT scores between White admits and minority admits to Harvard truly representative of “weaker academic credentials”? The data simply do not support this conclusion.

    Second, based on part one, college admissions employ a holistic review process that — in recognition that an SAT score of 1550 is not substantially different from a 1450 — downplays the SAT score. Harvard, like most select colleges, use quantitative scores like GPA and SAT to establish an academic cut-off point, above which all students are presumed to be equally academically qualified because this is largely within the margin of error of the SAT and/or where GPA differences are not strongly predictive. Anyone who meets the threshold score will then undergo holistic review where additional factors — including geography, legacy, declared major, family income, race and gender — will be considered to isolate the students who basically stand-out from this already over-populous pool of qualified students. Importantly, precisely because this system largely disregards SAT score and GPA after establishing threshold this system necessarily means that some students who score lower on these quantitative measures will receive admission while others who scored higher will not. That doesn’t mean that someone with “weaker academic credentials” got in; it means that two students of equal academic credentials applied, and one simply outshone the other in other aspects of their applicant portfolio for whatever reason.

    Basically, your argument only works if you apply more weight on SAT and GPA scores than college admissions officers do; however, they apply less weight for very good reasons. These quantitative measures are very limited in their value.

  • As an addendum, Observer, moments after publishing my comment to you, I was linked to Jeff Yang’s CNN op-ed. In it, he discusses his own knowledge of how holistic review aided his Harvard application. The important point here is this insight:

    What saved my application was the optional interview I’d done on campus, in which I’d ended up talking about everything that wasn’t in my application: My aspirations to be a writer. The horror movie that I’d scripted and shot in secret at our high school. The subtle differences between anxiety, suspense and fear. The fact that I actually really, really suck at piano.

    The interviewer made the case that I had intangibles that made me a potential asset to the student body, and pressed for me to be considered seriously, despite my middling distinction. Someone decided to take his advice. I hope they didn’t end up regretting it.

    The fact of the matter is that elite schools are elite precisely because they covet and cultivate heterogeneity and distinctiveness amid high achievement. They aren’t building an honor roll, they are building a campus culture. Consequently, they are seeking intangibles. They are seeking someone unique, someone whom the college believes will offer something special to the school. Good grades prove a person can get good grades; an academic may be someone who gets good grades, but more importantly is someone who thinks dynamically. Harvard doesn’t want rote students — high scorers are, to be frank, a dime a dozen; what they want is someone who can score well on tests, but who also offers additional intangible factors to the campus. These are the students who have a likelihood of not just surviving the campus environment, but enriching it.

    I’m not saying that you or your friends who failed to get “certain colleges” are rote thinkers; what I am saying is that your higher test scores did not demonstrate your intangibles better than the competitor who did receive an admit. The college admissions process is about finding distinctive people; if you didn’t get in, it just means that you didn’t successfully demonstrate that intangible to whomever reviewed your application.

    Students who want to perform well in the college admissions process need to understand that perfect SAT scores and high GPAs are boring — everyone who applies to Harvard and makes the cut-off has a near-perfect SAT score and GPA. Students who want to perform well need to find ways to demonstrate what makes them special within that pool — and that’s not going to be just more academic qualifications. The college environment is about finding academic people; a packet that only proves an applicant is only good at one thing — testing — is just not that interesting when you can admit a student who may be slightly less good at testing, but also good at many other things.

  • ullyses sterling

    AAPI’s HAVE suffered institutional racial discrimination. Many people are familiar with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. But fewer know that this form of legislative discrimination was expanded into the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 (yes in the 20th century!). Another example, in the 19th century, even many courts seeing that AAP1s are “colored” have restricted the right of AAPI to testify against whites. Thus in my opinion, AAPI s retain a legitimate claim to the legal remedy of :”affirmative action” in college admissions, AND in the workplace – private sector and government. Even AsAms who vehemently oppose affirmative action in college admissions will do an about face when it comes to affirmative action in employment. And the cap quota (which restricts admission of a minority group) in the Ivies must never be conflated with affirmative action (which encourages admission). Fascinating! Charleston C. K. Wang

  • AAPI s retain a legitimate claim to the legal remedy of :”affirmative action” in college admissions, AND in the workplace – private sector and government.

    Absolutely. We must also not forget that affirmative action helped to integrate Asian and Asian American students into many of these traditionally all-White, all-male institutions as recently as within the last fifty years. That certain (but not all) AAPI ethnic groups may no longer derive additional consideration under race-conscious affirmative action today is not evidence that affirmative action is unnecessary or discriminatory; it is actually compelling evidence that race-conscious affirmative action is necessary and works.

  • Observer8710


    I am not focusing on test scores. The friends whom i associate with have won awards outside of academia (and they did have high test scores).

    What i have seen is that during the admissions process, Asians are not considered a minority. I believe that Time magazines many years ago had an article how “quotas” were limiting qualified applicants – and another article re-emphasized the problem in 2013.



  • The friends whom i associate with have won awards outside of academia (and they did have high test scores).

    I don’t dispute that you and your siblings refer to candidates with high academic achievement. What I dispute is that the applicant who did receive admission had “weaker academic credentials”. Upon what do you base this assessment, which requires some sort of system for comparison? That you and your siblings won awards does not speak to the academic quality of your competitor.

    What i have seen is that during the admissions process, Asians are not considered a minority. I believe that Time magazines many years ago had an article how “quotas” were limiting qualified applicants – and another article re-emphasized the problem in 2013.

    All Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are considered racial minorities (unless, apparently, you are USC — and they are wrong for that). Not all Asian American and Pacific Islanders are considered underrepresented minorities when it comes to race-conscious affirmative action because many Asian American ethnicities are now well-represented in the college setting; affirmative action through much of the 20th century helped to achieve this high representation of those specific Asian American ethnic groups among college students.

    But, it’s important to note that many Asians are still considered underrepresented minorities and would derive special consideration under affirmative action. These would broadly include Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Additionally, race is only one of a number of factors considered in admissions, and being part of a well-represented Asian American does not preclude admission, as evident by … well… our well-represented population among higher ed students.

    I believe that Time magazines many years ago had an article how “quotas” were limiting qualified applicants – and another article re-emphasized the problem in 2013.

    Ron Unz is a conservative academic who generates studies according to a partisan agenda, many of which are scientifically flawed. The Time article you cite, for example, does not account for Asian Americans who identify as Mixed Asian, which is a fast-growing segment of the Asian American college-aged population. He doesn’t distinguish between foreign- and domestic-born Asian students. Additionally, he compares Harvard against Caltech, a school that might not practice affirmative action, but which also is situated on the opposite coast in the heart of the state with the fastest-growing Asian American population: the East Coast’s AAPI population is not growing by nearly as fast a rate, and we know that geography and family proximity is often a factor in student school choice. 50% of Harvard’s enrollees hail from the states near Harvard, which include many states where Asian Americans are not sizable. Finally, Unz simply ignores the fact that Caltech is a technical school with a different — much narrower — focus than Harvard.

    Let’s be clear: quotas are illegal. Quotas are also not synonymous with affirmative action. Unz and often-cited academic Thomas Espenshade may be able to demonstrate some negative action against Asian Americans in the college admissions process. Neither Unz, nor Espenshade, have been able to convincingly demonstrate the ongoing use of quotas. The fact that the size of the Asian American population at Harvard has increased only slightly in the last two decades is not de facto evidence of an admissions quota — we don’t know how the growth in national Asian American population size translates into a growth in applications to select universities, itself.

    Folks often cite the NYTimes infographic showing an increase in Asian college-aged population over the last two decades with a relatively static enrollment rate at Harvard and other select universities compared to Caltech. What they forget is that the number of college-aged kids seeking to attend college (and therefore number of college applicants) has increased across the board in that time. Consequently admissions rate has gone down — and continues to go down — for these select colleges. Unless the rate of growth in Asian American applicants far exceeds that of all other students, which it doesn’t appear to be doing to any significant degree considering the relative small size of Asian American populations in general, we’re unlikely to see a substantial change in Asian American enrollment at a selective university; instead, increases in overall applicant pool without a substantial swing in relative proportion of Asians will only produce greater selectivity.

  • Sinna D

    In 1930’s and 40’s, when the Ivy league schools admitted students on the basis of their ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS, they found that the classes were filled with Jewish students. ( In those days, there were not many Asian students in this country)
    The administrators did not like that. So they came up with schemes to prevent that. So a student playing Lacrosse or riding horses or rowing boats or playing cards etc was given the “Plus factors” which helped the well-to-do WASPs to get admission with mediocre academic achievements because the poorer Jewish students would not have such “plus factor” achievements to their credit.
    My point is that you folks do not demand this HOLISTIC approach when it comes to recruiting for college sports teams. You want only the Best be included in the teams. I find it hypocritical !!!

  • Sinna, this is quite literally not how it happened. Anti-Semitism was not a reaction to Jewish integration, it was the motivation for Jewish exclusion from higher education. Later, additional factors were considered in order to maintain anti-Semitic exclusion, but the important point is that the review process of the mid-twentieth century is not the holistic review process that is used today.

    Precisely because of SCOTUS legislation that has established how non-quantitative intangibles can be considered, and has outlawed quotas (which is the significant factor that permitted anti-Semitic exclusion from higher education), holistic review is now designed to consider important non-quantitative data in a fair and formalized objective manner.

    My point is that you folks do not demand this HOLISTIC approach when it comes to recruiting for college sports teams. You want only the Best be included in the teams. I find it hypocritical !!!

    Actually, athletics teams do consider non-athletic criteria in their recruitments. A player’s sportsmanship, his ability to listen and be coached, his creative thinking, and even his studiousness, are all factors that are taken into consideration in athletic recruiting. None can be quantified like the speed with which an athlete can throw a ball.

    A sports recruiter doesn’t only look for the tallest and most muscular men who can dunk a ball in building a college basketball team, he will recruit the athlete who will get along well with the other team members, who will listen to directions, who may even have the potential to be a team captain (which is a leadership position, not an athletic position). For most college athletes, the ability to maintain grades is also important. It is naive to assume that sports teams aren’t taking a holistic approach to their recruiting; to ignore similar background traits and to focus only on an athlete’s physique or sports playing skill is not the best way to build a sports team.

    Jeremy Lin, again, is not the strongest basketball player either in the NBA or at Harvard. But, he was still recruited — in part because of his skill, but also in part of his personality. And yes, also because his race and ethnicity was a marketing opportunity to Asian American fans. He is the prime example of a sports star who was considered for everything he has to offer to generate some sense of his worth to a team, and not just for his height and ability to dribble a ball. Your repeated invocation of athletics as some sort of counterargument to something simply fails to convince, Sinna.

  • Rajagopal Narasimhan

    “So why is the new discrimination tolerated? For one thing, many academics assume that higher rates of admission for Asian-Americans would come at the price of lower rates of admission for African-Americans. Opponents of affirmative action — including the Project on Fair Representation, which helped bring the new suit — like to link the two issues, but they are unrelated.

    As recognized by the Supreme Court, schools have an interest in recruiting a “critical mass” of minority students to obtain “the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” This justifies, in my view, admissions standards that look favorably on underrepresented groups, like African-Americans and Latinos. But it can neither explain nor justify why a student of Chinese, Korean or Indian descent is so much less likely to be admitted than a white one.” times

  • Rajagopal Narasimhan

    I wonder whether Harvard relies on the umbrella of affirmative-action per se when selecting an african american applicant, or simply following its own guidelines for admission diversity. Not sure if these are technically different.

  • Not sure if I understand the question.

  • But it can neither explain nor justify why a student of Chinese, Korean or Indian descent is so much less likely to be admitted than a white one.

    Anti-Asian negative action may persist — there is no definitive evidence of such negative action but certainly some circumstantial evidence. That being said, there is also some reason to question our existing evidence: how have these admission rates been calculated?

    In the UC system, for example, under Prop 209, Asian Americans did not have a much lower admission rate than any other group. Admission rates are less transparent at select universities that are not required to publish their admissions data, but we do not that the oft-cited NY Times infographic fails to contextualize their proof that the college-aged AAPI population is increased with the fact that the entire college population has increased in the same period of time, and also that overall admission rates have decreased in that period for select schools.

    Negative action against Asian Americans may be a very real phenomenon. But if so, the data need to be better quantified and presented, and the issue must be divorced from the issue of affirmative action. The conflation of negative action with affirmative action as occurs in this lawsuit is misleading and inappropriate.

  • Rajagopal Narasimhan

    If the recent lawsuit resulted in dismantling of affirmative action on Harvard, would the college still legitimately be able to practice its ‘diversity-seeking’ admissions guidelines and thus not resulting in any big change on the number of Blacks and Hispanics being admitted?

  • No. The current lawsuit attacks the holistic review process in its entirety, while focusing on SAT and GPA scores, leading to the conclusion that the lawsuit would likely seek to eliminate holistic review in favour of a system that focused almost exclusively on SAT and GPA.

    If this lawsuit were successful and holistic review were somehow banned, it is extremely likely that the diversity of the campus — including racial but more generally what Jeff Yang terms simply “intangibles” — would disappear. Holistic review is the process whereby anything outside of SAT and GPA can even be considered, so eliminating holistic review eliminates the consequent consideration of any of those intangibles.

    Edit: also – are you Rajagopal or someone else?

  • ullyses sterling

    Highly qualified Jewish students fought against a cap quota at Harvard in the 1920s. Back then there was no such thing as affirmative action – it was racial discrimination pure and simple. This compels the conclusion that, assuming if affirmative action of today was dismantled, there can still be a cap quota at Harvard. The reason is because a cap quota and its disparate impact on AAPIs have little or no connection to affirmative action but is racial discrimination pure and simple. Blaming affirmative action for the upper ceiling cap misses the point.

  • nik893

    Another article in the Daily Tar Heel at UNC-Chapel Hill: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/11/column-we-are-not-your-model-minority

  • Hi Nik! Thanks for the link — the post was actually added last week. It is fourth from the bottom!

  • james2418

    That’s too bad then. I would have supported a lawsuit that challenges ongoing negative action against Asians.

  • Kint

    This is a question of fairness. If Asian applicants with higher scores and more extracurricular activities from lower income families are denied admission in favor of non-Asians with lower scores and less extracurricular activities, that is unfair. In competitive schools where admission is race neutral (Berkeley, Cal Tech), you see the Asian population to be around 40%. Harvard is clearly capping Asian applicants, and that is wrong.

  • ScottD2k

    Prop 209 has been shown to be a failure because of reliance on test scores and grades and less on other soft skills and racial diversity, which is why it will eventually be overturned. You seem think scores are everything and they are not. Harvard is a private university and has the right to admit who they feel will succeed based on other qualitative measures and diversity. I agree with this especially taking into account that admissions offices are now thoroughly aware the cheating that occurs during the admissions process by many of these students.