Patterico's Pontifications


College Administrators, Stop Discriminating Against Asians!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

The New Yorker (yes, the New Yorker!) has an interesting piece about how the college admissions process discriminates against Asians, titled The Uncomfortable Truth About Affirmative Action and Asian-Americans. The piece begins with a revealing anecdote that provides a window into the souls of admissions officers, who are obviously irritated by having to deal with large numbers of applications from qualified Asian students with great grades and test scores:

The application process for schools, fellowships, and jobs always came with a ritual: a person who had a role in choosing me—an admissions officer, an interviewer—would mention in his congratulations that I was “different” from the other Asians. When I won a scholarship that paid for part of my education, a selection panelist told me that I got it because I had moving qualities of heart and originality that Asian applicants generally lacked. Asian applicants were all so alike, and I stood out. In truth, I wasn’t much different from other Asians I knew. I was shy and reticent, played a musical instrument, spent summers drilling math, and had strict parents to whom I was dutiful. But I got the message: to be allowed through a narrow door, an Asian should cultivate not just a sense of individuality but also ways to project “Not like other Asians!”

Note that the bias against Asians is so ingrained and institutional that an admissions officer actually feels comfortable congratulating a student for being different from other members of her ethnic group. Imagine an admissions officer saying something similar to a black applicant. You can’t. And if it happened, there would be a nationwide outcry.

As the piece explains, the issue has renewed vigor thanks to recent actions by the Trump Administration:

When the New York Times reported, last week, that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was internally seeking lawyers to investigate or litigate “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” many people immediately assumed that the Trump Administration was hoping to benefit whites by assailing affirmative action. The Department soon insisted that it specifically intends to revive a 2015 complaint against Harvard filed with the Education and Justice Departments by sixty-four Asian-American groups, making the same claim as the current court case: that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asians in admissions, giving whites an advantage. (The complaint had previously been dismissed in light of the already-pending lawsuit.) The combination of the lawsuit and the potential federal civil-rights inquiry signals that the treatment of Asians will frame the next phase of the legal debate over race-conscious admissions programs.

Just last year, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative-action program, which, like Harvard’s, aims to build a diverse class along multiple dimensions and considers race as one factor in a holistic review of each applicant. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, approved of a university’s ability to define “intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.” Incidentally, the phrase “intangible characteristics” echoes the sort of language that often describes the individualizing or leadership qualities that many Asian-American applicants, perceived as grinds with high test scores, are deemed to lack. The complaint against Harvard highlights the school’s history of using similar language to describe Jewish students nearly a century ago, which led to a “diversity” rationale designed to limit Jewish enrollment in favor of applicants from regions with fewer Jews, such as the Midwest. If diversity of various kinds is central to an élite school’s mission, an Asian may have to swim upstream to be admitted.

Because it’s the New Yorker — and because the author is a law professor at Harvard — she still gives the inevitable nod to the alleged need to use race in admissions.

I would not relish seeing the nation’s most élite colleges become majority Asian, which is what has resulted at selective high schools, such as Stuyvesant, that do not consider race in admissions at all. It is also extremely troubling when solely test-based admissions such as Stuyvesant’s reflect the failure to remedy structural disadvantages suffered by black and Latino students. What is needed instead, then, is race-conscious affirmative action, to address the historic discrimination and underrepresentation of blacks and Latinos, in combination with far less severity in the favoring of whites relative to Asians.

How ironic. The author spends much of the piece mounting a good argument that it is wrong to discriminate against Asians based on “intangible characteristics” — and then advocates a policy that would disadvantage qualified Asians because she would not “relish” having too many of them on campus.

Ah, well. She’s careful enough to know that taking a strong stand against the use of race in admissions at all would make her a campus pariah. People would be calling for her head in no time flat. This passage is necessary for her to make her points about discrimination against Asians without jeopardizing her job.

But it’s nice to see someone at one of these institutions raise the issue — albeit rather gingerly and timidly. The discrimination by colleges and universities against Asians because of their ethnicity is one of the great scandals of our time. It’s time we started talking about it.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

29 Responses to “College Administrators, Stop Discriminating Against Asians!”

  1. That’s some serious relish there.

    That’s a brand of relish, in fact, that used to be very widespread in the Old South a couple of generations ago, but that was a slightly different flavor of relish. They’re definitely from the same manufacturer, though.

    Relish. “I would not relish ….”

    Our host reacted to that just as I would: “There’s something for closing argument! That’s going to resonate!”

    Beldar (fa637a)

  2. Some animals are more equal than others, Patterico. Seriously, you should hear the verbal limbo people in academia do about this.

    They apparently never heard of the “Jewish Quota” in the 1920s and 30s.


    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  3. I agree it’s time, and past time, to have an honest conversation about the enforcement of racial preferences in state-run educational institutions.

    My conversation will be short:

    On the relevant legal issues, I believe in the Fourteenth Amendment as written. I believe we’re past the time in which governmental sorting-by-race can be justified even as a temporary remedial measure for historic government sorting-by-race. I believe every statute and regulation on the books which requires or endorses or permits governmental sorting-by-race is unconstitutional and should be struck down if not promptly repealed.

    Regarding the relevant state-paid personnel issues, everyone who’s perpetuated these systems should be fired, and the sorting-by-race job positions in the government (federal, state, local) eliminated altogether.

    In the private sphere, there will still need to be monumental efforts to improve race relations. That will get easier when the governmental sorting-by-race stops making things worse. Regardless, the government can’t participate in this effort without violating the plain words of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  4. What kind of people are on college admissions committees? Nobel nominees? Giants of Wall Street? Military geniuses? Brilliant inventors? Great artists, composers and musicians? Or second-rate nebbishes otherwise unemployable if not for mommy-academia, who once, and only once in their whole mediocre lives will have power to f*** around a person better than they are?

    nk (dbc370)

  5. structural disadvantages suffered by black and Latino students

    Asians also suffered from “structural” racism.

    If Asians are allowed to succeed, the whole notion of white racism as the cause of failure goes out the window, and upon that blame lay the entire theoretical structure of the left today.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  6. (1) Assuming wikipedia to be accurate, Suk Gersen got tenure in 2010. (Cf. – “[That she wrote as she did re: the relish vel non of her druthers] [was] necessary for her to make her points about discrimination against Asians without jeopardizing her job.” Re: this, see also (2), infra)

    (2) Harvard Law isn’t entirely conservative. E.g., this [2017] (“Harvard Law School named professor John Manning as its new dean Tuesday, soliciting praise from conservative and libertarian legal scholars. [¶] Manning, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Robert Bork, joined Harvard Law’s faculty in 2004. He teaches public law and statutory interpretation.”)

    Q! (267694)

  7. Not all academics are in lockstep. But believe you me, it’s like “Animal Farm” around here.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  8. @7 Are you an academician/student at Harvard, a (native) worker at or frequenter of the zoo, or simply a tourist in town for the beans?

    Q! (267694)

  9. Stop discriminating against asians, or Guam gets it.

    Pinandpuller (bc7318)

  10. I’ve long maintained that I am willing to accept the idea of private institutions using affirmative action in admissions (public schools are, of course, an entirely different matter). What bothers me, though, is when these schools refuse to admit it and pretend that every student is judged solely on their record of accomplishments. The smarter schools are good about using weasel language about “looking at the whole student” or “trying to build a well-rounded class” as ways to justify taking students with certain characteristics (athletic ability, interest in extracurriculars, regional balance, hardships overcome), and I don’t really have a problem with that. But I also think that these institutions should quit peddling the fiction that there is overwhelming evidence of the benefits of “diversity” in terms of students benefiting from being around peers of different backgrounds. In fact, as I recall hearing, there is now some evidence that the college experience these days leads to far more balkanization by race, sexual preference, political belief, etc. than is observed in the K-12 experience.

    Shorter version: have racial/ethnic/interest quotas if you would like, but be honest about it and be open to evidence that perhaps it is not accomplishing what you believe it is accomplishing.

    JVW (f932bd)

  11. asian invasion 15 minutes

    mg (31009b)

  12. It would not surprise me to find out that there were NO Asian students in the LAUSD. What Asian could admit of such reckless disregard for their child’s education?

    Kevin M (752a26)

  13. Harvard, Yale and Stanford are about 20-22% Asian. Harvard is 50% white.

    CalTech is 42% Asian, 29% white.
    MIT is 33% Asian, 48% white (some double counting)
    Harvey Mudd is 19% Asian, 36% white. Hispanic enrollment has gone from 6% to 16% in the last 6 years.

    All claim to be ethnically blind, but it would appear not.

    Kevin M (752a26)

  14. “If Asians are allowed to succeed, the whole notion of white racism as the cause of failure goes out the window, and upon that blame lay the entire theoretical structure of the left today.”

    Whatever it is they’re doing to counteract the evil white patriarchy should be modeled by other ethnicities.

    I was working on a project a few years ago in Monterey Park CA, a community that was heavily Latino when I was growing up but has now become predominantly Asian.

    It was Saturday and the day of the Kentucky Derby, I scheduled my day with no lunch so I could stop early, find a bar, enjoy a cold beer and watch the race.

    I could not find a bar.

    Culture has a lot to do with Asian success. Priority of learning, respect for elders and intact families……and not a lot of bars.

    harkin (d4a566)

  15. The slant taken against Asians in “Higher” Ed is indefensible.

    There is a most bitter irony in that the thought farms insist they need a wide diversity of students who possess divergent talents, gifts, and interests, and then move heaven and earth molding them into robotic, anti-thinking, unethical, and amoral piles of protoplasm.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  16. I know a lot of “Asians”, do business with them and like them very much. Number 2 son looks like marrying one.

    I do not think they are all that much more clever than us honkies, if at all.

    My experience is that they have gamed the educational system, which is rotten corrupt and manned (Womaned?)by very stupid people.

    Gaming them is so very easy.

    Fred Z (05d938)

  17. The only person in my daughter’s middle school who played the oboe was a first generation (immigrant parents) Vietnamese girl. Because the talent required is the same as playing the harmonica but the work required to learn it one thousand times more. It’s a difficult instrument.

    Hard work and dedication. All the stuff you learn in school, including the stuff that’s tested for in the ACT and SAT can be learned perfectly, or nearly perfectly, if you work hard enough at it. The sine qua non — the indispensable thing — is supportive parents.

    This is the Asian grading scale, according to some Chinese kid on the internet:
    A — Average
    B — Below average
    C — Can’t have dinner
    D — Don’t come home
    F — Find another family

    nk (dbc370)

  18. I have some secondhand insight into UCLA admissions. If based on test scores alone, entering classes would consist almost entirely of Asians and Whites.

    In order to make room for enough Blacks and Latinos to prevent official entanglements, well qualified Asians and Whites must be denied admission.

    Them’s the facts, all else is happy talk.

    ropelight (072508)

  19. If based on test scores alone, entering classes would consist almost entirely of Asians and Whites.

    After the UC Board of Regents put an end to using race as a determining factor in admissions, and when California was considering Prop 209 to outlaw preference programs statewide, the LA Dog Trainer actually did a piece of real journalism and worked with some higher education experts and admissions officers to determine what would happen if the state gave preferences by socioeconomic status rather than by race. Their conclusion was that the main beneficiaries of such a change would be urban Asians and rural whites. Blacks and Latinos, not so much. That gave fuel to the claims that the prior affirmative action policies had mostly benefitted middle-class and upper-class minorities, not “the underserved” that affirmative action proponents always yammer on about.

    JVW (42615e)

  20. This has been known for a long time–one of the more despicable tactics the left used to try to defeat Proposition 209 back in the nineties was to acknowledge that “conventional” affirmative action hurt Asian-American students and to allege that making it illegal would cause white students to lose seats to those Asian-American students. In one of the last truly sane moments in California politics to this date, the majority ignored the vile race baiting and passed 209.

    M Scott Eiland (b16b32)

  21. As is well known, Asians are entirely lacking in holistic.

    Richard Aubrey (07b8fc)

  22. #19, JVW, right as rain on a thirsty corn field.

    ropelight (072508)

  23. Greetings:

    Occasionally, I have a kind of quantitative thought. So, I would be interested in learning what metrics would end the affirmative action reparations or on what calendar date that administrative sun would set.

    11B40 (6abb5c)

  24. So for people who are opposed to affirmative action, what are some better ways to make restitution for historic inequities caused by discrimination? The sins of yesterday result in imbalances that live on today. Whose responsibility is it to make things right, and how to go about doing it?

    Tom Ryberg (2c5752)


    narciso (d1f714)

  26. That’s right, harkin, it’s the culture. I taught Asian kids in the summer, and their parents would tell me “Give them more homework!” They were in school or church activities all summer long.


    Rybert, how do you prove your proposition that “The sins of yesterday result in imbalances that live on today”?

    Patricia (5fc097)

  27. Even the liberals have abandoned that horsesh!t about correcting past injustices and have adopted “diversity”.

    nk (dbc370)

  28. The unfortunates damaged by “mismatch” (i.e. admission to U-Mich instead of, say, Eastern Mich) can be counted upon to be resentful guaranteed votes for dems.

    Richard Aubrey (0d7df4)

  29. I concluded 18 years of part-time teaching at UC Irvine last year. The student body make up up is a little over 50% Asian American. They are there because they belong there. There are studying and enjoying their college time. In addition, they are very under represented when it comes to campus protesting and worrying about micro-aggressions.

    I know for a fact that there has been discussion by some throughout the UC system that there are too many Asian-Americans and what to do about it.

    I say if they are running circles around the rest of us, it behooves us to emulate them and do better.

    gary fouse (07824e)

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