T Nation

Asian Complaints Re Affirmative Action

East Asians are the group most discriminated against by affirmative action policies - and at least one of them is suing.

When you’re dealing with a zero-sum game, i.e. a fixed number of spots to selective colleges, for each person who is favored based on race, someone else is disfavored based on race.

Side note: It’s easy to forget that historically the SAT was introduced to fight racism in admissions processes, so that admissions officers couldn’t just favor kids from secondary schools with better reputations, which was a proxy for WASPs back then.

http://insidehighered.com/news/2008/06/11/asians

[i]Inquiry Into Alleged Anti-Asian Bias Expands

A complaint by an Asian American student that racial bias blocked his admission to Princeton University has been expanded by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights into a broader “compliance review” of the issues involved beyond his case.

The complaint, filed in 2006, has been viewed as significant by critics of affirmative action who argue - as does the rejected applicant - that highly competitive colleges’ commitment to diversity results in differential standards for members of different groups, with Asian American applicants held to tougher standards. Many college officials - most of whom strongly support affirmative action - have dismissed the applicant’s complaint as sour grapes, noting that Princeton each year rejects thousands of well qualified applicants of every racial and ethnic group.

The Education Department, responding to an inquiry, acknowledged the shift of the investigation from focusing on one complaint to Princeton�??s entire admissions system and its treatment of Asian-American applicants. A department spokesman stressed that converting the investigation did not mean that officials had come to any conclusions about the original complaint. But at the very least, the shift suggests that the government does not view the complaint as frivolous. OCR regularly shuts down complaint investigations, concluding that no violation of the law took place, and the agency has limited resources for compliance reviews. Compliance reviews cover much more ground than any single complaint, tend to take place on issues that the department believes are important, and are sometimes used to nudge other colleges to change policies when they see how one college fared in a review.

Official OCR guidelines give three reasons for converting a single complaint into a compliance review: “(a) the complaint, because of its scope, involves systemic issues; (b) a compliance review would be the most effective means of addressing multiple individual complaints against the same recipient; or © the complainant decides to withdraw a complaint that includes class allegations.”

Cass Cliatt, a spokeswoman for Princeton, said that the university was pleased by the broadening of the investigation.

“We actually welcome the opportunity to talk about this,” Cliatt said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about how colleges and universities use the process. We�??re happy to explain to OCR how we do this.” She stressed that the university in no way discriminates against any applicant on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Princeton received a then-record 17,564 applications to Princeton’s class of 2010, the class to which the student who filed the complaint wanted to be admitted. The eventual class that enrolled had only 1,231 students, of whom 37 percent were American ethnic minorities and 14 percent were Asian Americans. Cliatt declined to release information on the SAT averages or grades of applicants of different racial or ethnic groups, saying that Princeton doesn�??t analyze data in this way and that to do so would be confusing since Princeton does not evaluate individual applicants based on race or ethnicity. “We don�??t want to have the mistaken belief that we are making categories when we are not,” she said.

The student who filed the original complaint against Princeton, Jian Li, arguably landed well after his rejection: He enrolled at Yale University. Li’s complaint stated that he received 800s on the mathematics, critical reading and writing parts of the SAT, that he graduated in the top 1 percent of his high school class, that he completed nine Advanced Placement classes by the time he finished high school, and that he had been active in extracurricular activities as well - serving as a delegate at Boys State, working in Costa Rica, etc. While Li left the ethnicity question blank on his application (as Princeton allows), he said that other questions that he was required to answer �?? his name, his mother�??s and father’s names, his first language (Chinese), and the language spoken in his home (Chinese) �?? all made his ethnicity clear.

In letters sent by OCR to members of New Jersey�??s Congressional delegation, the investigation of Princeton is described as focusing on the allegation that the university discriminates against Asian American applicants. But Li�??s complaint and the analysis behind it attempt to shift the debate more broadly to one about affirmative action.

Li is pointing to research by two Princeton scholars, published in Social Science Quarterly, that looked at admissions decisions at elite colleges. The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percent. And their share of a class of admitted students would rise to 31.5 percent, from 23.7 percent.

The complaint and the allegations of anti-Asian bias have been sensitive at Princeton and elsewhere. Princeton, like other elite colleges, changed admissions policies in the 1920s as the number of Jewish applicants appeared poised to rise, and adopted an emphasis on “character” that scholars say was used to minimize non-Protestant enrollments. While Princeton has long abandoned such policies, some Asian American students see similarities between the treatment of Jewish applicants then and Asian applicants today. Many guidance counselors at high schools with many top Asian American students report that their Asian American applicants appear to need significantly higher SAT scores or grades to win admission to highly competitive colleges than do members of other ethnic or racial groups.

When Li first filed his complaint, many Asian-American students at Princeton criticized him for not accepting a college denial. But when The Daily Princetonian’s joke issue last year featured a parody of Li, in mock Asian dialect, the satire infuriated many Asian American leaders on the campus and elsewhere and prompted broad debates over the status of Asian Americans at elite colleges.

Just this week, a report issued by the College Board and a panel of experts on Asian Americans made the case that despite the successes of some Asian American students, more attention needs to be paid to the many who don’t get 800 SAT’s or take nine AP courses. The report argued that affirmative action does not hold back Asian Americans and cited studies showing that Asian Americans benefit from affirmative action in some cases, such as law school admissions.

The section in the report on affirmative action briefly alluded to the study cited by Li that found that the elimination of affirmative action would get more Asian American applicants admitted to highly competitive colleges. The report argues that there are “no winners” in college systems losing black and Latino students, and warns that a focus on Asian American students and the impact of affirmative action on their admission bids are “excuses not to deal with the failure our education system and the complex and interwoven nature of how race and racism operate in the United States.”[/i]

Unfortunately, as the Northeast Asians demonstrate, there a racial differences in mean SAT score.

I smell an upcoming episode of “Boston Legal.”

Tell me I’m wrong.

To be perfectly honest, so many perfectly qualified people exist that the Asian disadvantage is minimal. The percent of Asians who get in that apply is similar to the percentage of other races.

Asians at the top level are no more qualified that whites. They aren’t getting ‘bumped’ out for being Asian, they just have a slightly reduced chance of winning the lottery.

Doesn’t make it right, just makes it not as horrifying.

[quote]Beowolf wrote:
To be perfectly honest, so many perfectly qualified people exist that the Asian disadvantage is minimal. The percent of Asians who get in that apply is similar to the percentage of other races.

Asians at the top level are no more qualified that whites. They aren’t getting ‘bumped’ out for being Asian, they just have a slightly reduced chance of winning the lottery.

Doesn’t make it right, just makes it not as horrifying. [/quote]

That’s not quite right.

Firstly, there aren’t that many perfectly qualified people, i.e., 800 v, 800 m, 4.0 (or higher - what is with schools these days…) GPA, AP classes, extra curriculars, etc., etc. Certainly not enough to fill the class even at the top university - unless you think the top university is Cal Tech.

There are a lot of very qualified people - but the SAT kind of takes care of making sure there aren’t too many. It’s bell-curved - they keep dumbing it down, but they haven’t yet made it meaningless (there can only be so many people in the top 2%, for instance). High GPAs and lower SATs, and vice versa, will somewhat broaden the pool - but if you’re talking about the top 100 universities, there are many spots available. But it’s a fixed amount of spots.

It’s not a lottery - some candidates are obviously better by the numbers. For any given school, for the other candidates, it’s a closer choice. For any given university, the closer choices will have higher numbers for higher-ranked universities.

So, for any given university, there are a number of students “on the cusp” as it were. For any student on the cusp, the differentiation moves to other factors - and that happens at each and every school with competitive admissions. The argument here is that when it moves to a racial factor, Asians are discriminated against at the highest rate. Whites next highest. Members of other races seemingly benefit from this discrimination.

SATs are most certinaly not everything. In fact, the only thing they gauge at ALL is your ability to take an SAT.

A perfect score (2400) is NOT much better than a 2250+.

Asians tend to have much less extra-curriculars and charity stuff.

And your totally ignoring the essay portion.

Our perfect score valedictorian got into Cornell and Columbia, but got rejected from Harvard and Yale. She does prime research in a world renowned lab, and is a BIG part of Habitat for Humanity. And her essay kicked fucking ass. However, another girl in our school had already gotten into Yale on early action, and they didn’t want two kids from the same High School. Harvard just had too many apps for chem major, and had to cut some basically at random.

You’re also ignoring that they want a certain ratio of each major/area of study. Their may be plenty of spots, but there are only so many math and science spots of each kind.

I won’t deny that there is some level of discrimination. Two identical candidates, one asian and one white, will have unequal chances in the “lottery”. However, it is not like the pro-black/hispanic AA that gets under qualified minorities into schools, bumping qualifieds out.

“The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percen”

This makes no sense to me.

Why would it only be Asian enrolments that would rise if AA was not applied?

[quote]Regular Gonzalez wrote:
“The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percen”

This makes no sense to me.

Why would it only be Asian enrolments that would rise if AA was not applied? [/quote]

That… is interesting. How reliable is the study do ya think?

Missed the whites-staying-the-same part…

So… white people aren’t hurt by Affirmative Action? Or maybe the vast number of us just skews the stat?

If you have 100 qualified people, most of them will be white simply because their are more white people in this country.

Hmm… why doesn’t it give us a percent for white people? Did I miss that too?

[quote]Beowolf wrote:
SATs are most certinaly not everything. In fact, the only thing they gauge at ALL is your ability to take an SAT.

A perfect score (2400) is NOT much better than a 2250+.

Asians tend to have much less extra-curriculars and charity stuff.

And your totally ignoring the essay portion.

Our perfect score valedictorian got into Cornell and Columbia, but got rejected from Harvard and Yale. She does prime research in a world renowned lab, and is a BIG part of Habitat for Humanity. And her essay kicked fucking ass. However, another girl in our school had already gotten into Yale on early action, and they didn’t want two kids from the same High School. Harvard just had too many apps for chem major, and had to cut some basically at random.

You’re also ignoring that they want a certain ratio of each major/area of study. Their may be plenty of spots, but there are only so many math and science spots of each kind.

I won’t deny that there is some level of discrimination. Two identical candidates, one asian and one white, will have unequal chances in the “lottery”. However, it is not like the pro-black/hispanic AA that gets under qualified minorities into schools, bumping qualifieds out. [/quote]

SAT is the differentiator. Schools have a difficult time comparing a 4.0 from school A against a 4.0 from school B, even though they are different. Also, there are many, many more 4.0’s (or equivalents based on the school’s grading policies) than there are perfect SATs or National Merit Scholars.

Your last point also isn’t borne out by differential graduation rates, which are quite troubling. (For law school, there are highly differential bar passage rates.)

And that’s not even accounting for the difference in choice of major - look who’s majoring in the competitive fields by the percentages. Those grades are bell curved, so washing out at a particular school’s engineering or pre-med program doesn’t mean someone couldn’t have succeeded at a school with lesser competition - which is a shame for the individual who washes out…

[quote]
Regular Gonzalez wrote:
“The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percen”

This makes no sense to me.

Why would it only be Asian enrolments that would rise if AA was not applied?

Beowolf wrote:
That… is interesting. How reliable is the study do ya think?

Missed the whites-staying-the-same part…

So… white people aren’t hurt by Affirmative Action? Or maybe the vast number of us just skews the stat?

If you have 100 qualified people, most of them will be white simply because their are more white people in this country.

Hmm… why doesn’t it give us a percent for white people? Did I miss that too?[/quote]

Haven’t read the study, but what it implies to me is a quota system.

Also, the thing is they reported it by percentages, and there are a lot more white candidates than Asian candidates, so the same raw number would translate into very different percentages for the two groups - a lower percentage for whites, and a higher percentage for Asians. Also, separately, on average East Asians have slightly higher numbers that whites (excepting the averages for certain Jewish groups - whites in general), so there would be a greater percentage of them with high enough marks to be bubble candidates.

Note there would be no extant reason to track this crap at all if it weren’t for affirmative action.

[quote]Regular Gonzalez wrote:
“The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percen”

This makes no sense to me.

Why would it only be Asian enrolments that would rise if AA was not applied? [/quote]

Asians as a population tend to have the highest SAT scores and GPA. Affirmative action allows schools to determine what is a ‘critical mass’ of each group that is desired to achieve the best educational atmosphere and dialogue (so says the theory). So, if Asians have reached and exceeded the critical mass for their group and there are not enough other groups, schools can preferentially select students from particular racial groups and take less from others (like Asians). Without affirmative action, the chips have to just fall where they may. Schools may not consider race. If that results in more Asians (or any group) because they are more objectively qualified, so be it. Same thing for less qualified racial groups. If their represenation drops, so be it.

[quote]Beowolf wrote:
Regular Gonzalez wrote:
“The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percen”

This makes no sense to me.

Why would it only be Asian enrolments that would rise if AA was not applied?

That… is interesting. How reliable is the study do ya think?

Missed the whites-staying-the-same part…

So… white people aren’t hurt by Affirmative Action? Or maybe the vast number of us just skews the stat?

If you have 100 qualified people, most of them will be white simply because their are more white people in this country.

Hmm… why doesn’t it give us a percent for white people? Did I miss that too?[/quote]

I don’t know how accurate those particular numbers are. And they don’t seem to add up together too well. But Asian enrollment has increased in California schools since Prop 209 banning affirmative action passed.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:

…It’s easy to forget that historically the SAT was introduced to fight racism in admissions processes, so that admissions officers couldn’t just favor kids from secondary schools with better reputations, which was a proxy for WASPs back then…

[/quote]

Actually, the SATs were developed to keep Jewish students out of Colombia.

The plan back-fired.