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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asian admissions in Boston Globe

Will disparate impact be applied in favor of Asian-American college applicants? Stay tuned! (Perhaps the NBA and NFL are next :-)

The article below appeared in today's Boston Globe Magazine. I'm sure that it will generate plenty of amusing comments there. A similar article in McLeans caused a furor in Canada.

Before commenting here, please peruse this earlier post and its 170+ comments to ensure you are contributing something new to the discussion ;-)

Competitive disadvantage: High-achieving Asian-American students are being shut out of top schools around the country. Is this what diversity looks like now?

... After all the attention given to the stereotype that Asian-American parents put enormous pressure on their children to succeed – provoked over the winter by Amy Chua’s controversial Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – came the indisputable reality this spring that, even if Asian-American students work hard, the doors of top schools were still being slammed shut in many faces.

And parents aren’t happy about it. “The entry barriers are higher for us than for everybody else,” says Chi Chi Wu, one of the organizers of the Brookline Asian American Family Network. “There’s a form of redlining or holding Asian-American students to higher standards than any other group.”

... However, in researching their 2009 book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford examined data on students applying to college in 1997 and found what looks like different standards for different racial groups. They calculated that Asian-Americans needed nearly perfect SAT scores of 1550 to have the same chance of being accepted at a top private university as whites who scored 1410 and African-Americans who got 1100. Whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than 15 times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans. >>Note: this is after controlling for grades, scores, family background (legacy status) and athletic status (whether the student was a recruited athlete.)<<

What about the argument that, in relation to the general population, Asian-Americans are already overrepresented at universities? “It’s both true that Asians are overrepresented and that they’re being discriminated against,” says Stephen Hsu, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon who speaks out against discrimination he says Asian-Americans face in university admissions. Both things can happen at the same time, he says.

Hsu and others allege that universities are more concerned about boosting black and Hispanic enrollment than admitting qualified Asian-Americans, and that old-fashioned xenophobia comes into play as well.

“My personal perspective is that if institutions are using race to keep Asian-American students out, it’s based on a fear [among non-minorities] that these ‘other’ students are taking over our institutions or taking ‘our spots’ at the best institutions,” says Sam Museus, a professor in the Asian-American studies program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

... Brookline organizer Chi Chi Wu, who is a lawyer and the mother of an 11-year-old, says it may be time to fight back, using a legal theory called disparate impact. “In other areas of civil rights law, when you have statistical disparities, you can often make a case. You don’t have to prove the university is saying, ‘We don’t want all these Asians,’ but just having those statistics and being able to point to disparities is enough.”

She adds, “If we Asian-Americans don’t organize, there’s no amount of piano practicing that will help us.”

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