UCLA Shooting Suspect Identified: Thoughts On Race, Violence, and Graduate Studies

Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)
Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)

Like many, when I heard that the UCLA campus was on lock-down yesterday due to an on-campus shooting, I braced myself for the worst. Many have scoffed that the spectacle of the mass shooting has become commonplace in today’s America.

Even so, I felt a growing despair as tweets began rolling in from students sheltering in place at UCLA yesterday. There is no story of mass violence that ends well: each is a gruesome spectacle of horror and tragedy, inevitably committed by a person who made the unforgivable decision to weigh their own private angst over the lives of the innocent.

But, yesterday’s events at UCLA gave me pause for extra concern. UCLA is one of the more racially diverse campuses in the United States with over one-third of its undergraduates self-identifying as Asian American or Pacific Islander. It is home to the nation’s largest Asian American Studies departments. I felt certain: a shooting at UCLA was almost certain to reverberate through the AAPI community in unpredictable ways.

I was saddened to learn this morning that — despite early reports that the shooter was a White male — Los Angeles police confirmed the identity of the shooter as former UCLA Mechanical Engineering graduate student Mainak Sarkar, a 38-year-old Bengali American scientist who received his  doctorate in 2013 and his US permanent residency in 2014. Sarkar is suspected of having killed two victims — his ex-wife, Ashley Hasti who was found dead in Hasti’s home in Minnesota, and his former graduate mentor, Prof. William Klug, who was shot in Klug’s office on the UCLA campus — before Sarkar took his own life.

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Top-ranked running back Soso Jamabo references song that fetishizes Asian women in UCLA commit

Soso Jamabo just committed to UCLA's football team, and tweeted some Yellow Fever bullshit to celebrate.
Soso Jamabo just committed to UCLA’s football team, and tweeted some Yellow Fever bullshit to celebrate.

(H/T @_eeekric16_)

I don’t follow football much — let alone college football — so I wasn’t aware until about mid-morning that today is national Signing Day, when colleges sign incoming freshmen players to join their on-campus football teams. Which, I guess, is a big enough deal that Sports Illustrated (among other media outlets) is live-blogging the whole thing.

The second highest ranked running back this year is 5-star player Soso Jamabo, from Plano, Texas. SB Nation reported that  several schools were competing for Jamabo with three — UCLA, Texas and Notre Dame — most favoured to win his commitment.

This morning, Jamabo announced that he would be committing to UCLA; and he made that announcement not only in a press conference but also on Twitter, where he tweeted the following tweet.

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Proof that UCLA’s race-blind holistic review admissions is inadequate for campus diversity

ucla

Earlier this week, The Daily Caller — a national conservative website — reported on the work of UCLA professor Tim Groseclose. Groseclose is a conservative-leaning professor of political science at UCLA, and he recently set out to prove a very specific and inflammatory charge: that UCLA’s post-Proposition 209 holistic review process was actually race-based. In a book called “Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA“, Groseclose presents his data purporting to demonstrate widespread use of holistic review to make determinative decisions in favour of minority applicants to UCLA. The Daily Caller summarized Groseclose’s findings as follows:

[Groseclose claimed] that the research is proof that UCLA accepted more black students than if they had followed the law, which negatively impacted white and Asian applicants.

He claims that the racial preferences were used when the university would review applications that were marked for further consideration. In those instances, black applicants with incomes over $100,000 were around twice as likely to be accepted than white and Asian applicants with incomes of $30,000 with similar test scores.

Groseclose’s charges are pretty serious: he alleges that UCLA is violating state law. But, two things also make this article particularly interesting: 1) Groseclose made the full dataset he received from UCLA’s admissions departments available, and 2) he makes a testable hypothesis.

Groseclose’s book is not peer-reviewed and even before embarking on this analysis, I noted some incorrect statements made by the DailyCaller article. So, I took it upon myself this morning to download Groseclose’s dataset and test his central assertion — that UCLA’s holistic review process is covertly race-based affirmative action — myself. Sufficed to say, Groseclose’s conclusion did not hold up.

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