I like the use of language in the article - they refer to UC admissions in the wake of Prop 209 (which removed race-based preferences) as a strict meritocracy, as opposed to what is practiced at most other public and private colleges. In fact the lead-in to the article on the web site says:
With a mandate that says merit trumps all, Berkeley finds itself looking across the Pacific for its identity. Is this the new face of higher education?
The usual diversity double-speak refuses to acknowledge that race-based preferences are not meritocratic.
Our heroes Jian Li (Yale student suing Princeton over anti-Asian admissions policies) and Daniel Golden (WSJ writer whose recent book The Price of Admission exposes the ugly side of elite admissions) both appear in the article. The Princeton spokesperson quoted in the article provides an excellent example of politically correct obfuscation. How is awarding preference to certain ethnic groups not discriminatory towards other non-preferred groups, given that the number of students admitted each year is fixed? Innumeracy strikes again!
For earlier related discussion, see here. For the Princeton study that showed statistically how affirmative action hurts Asians (being Asian is equivalent to a 50 point penalty on the SAT), see here.
NYTimes: Little Asia on the Hill
...Spend a few days at Berkeley, on the classically manicured slope overlooking San Francisco Bay and the distant Pacific, and soon enough the sound of foreign languages becomes less distinct. This is a global campus in a global age. And more than any time in its history, it looks toward the setting sun for its identity.
The revolution at Berkeley is a quiet one, a slow turning of the forces of immigration and demographics. What is troubling to some is that the big public school on the hill certainly does not look like the ethnic face of California, which is 12 percent Asian, more than twice the national average. But it is the new face of the state’s vaunted public university system. Asians make up the largest single ethnic group, 37 percent, at its nine undergraduate campuses.
...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.
...This is in part because getting into Berkeley — U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked public university — has never been more daunting. There were 41,750 applicants for this year’s freshman class of 4,157. Nearly half had a weighted grade point average of 4.0 or better (weighted for advanced courses). There is even grumbling from “the old Blues” — older alumni named for the school color — “who complain because their kids can’t get in,” says Gregg Thomson, director of the Office of Student Research.
...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.”
...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.”
...Admissions officials have long denied that they apply quotas. Nonetheless, race is important “to ensure a diverse student body,” says Cass Cliatt, a Princeton spokeswoman. But, she adds, “Looking at the merits of race is not the same as the opposite” — discrimination.
Elite colleges like Princeton review the “total package,” in her words, looking at special talents, extracurricular interests and socioeconomics — factors like whether the applicant is the first in the family to go to college or was raised by a single mother. “There’s no set formula or standard for how we evaluate students,” she says.
...Historically, Asians have faced discrimination, with exclusion laws in the 1800s that kept them from voting, owning property or legally immigrating. Many were run out of West Coast towns by mobs. But by the 1970s and ’80s, with a change in immigration laws, a surge in Asian arrivals began to change the complexion of California, and it was soon reflected in an overrepresentation at its top universities.
In the late 1980s, administrators appeared to be limiting Asian-American admissions, prompting a federal investigation. The result was an apology by the chancellor at the time, and a vow that there would be no cap on Asian enrollment.
...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.
He believes that Latinos are underrepresented because many come from poor agrarian families with little access to the good schools that could prepare them for the rigors of Berkeley. He points out that, on the other hand, many of the Korean students on campus are sons and daughters of parents with college degrees. In any event, he says, it is not the university’s job to fix the problems that California’s public schools produce.