Politics & Policy

Applying While Asian

Celebrate your heritage — unless you're trying to get into college.

To check or not to check the Asian box? That is the pointed choice faced by Asian-American students applying for admission to what are supposed to be the most tolerant places on earth, the nation’s colleges.

The Associated Press ran a report on Asian students of mixed parentage checking “white,” if possible, on their applications to avoid outing themselves as Asian. The Princeton Review Student Advantage Guide counsels Asian-American students not to check the race box and warns against sending a photo.

In a culture that makes so much of celebrating ethnic heritage, especially of racial minorities, and that values fairness above all, Asian-American students think they need to hide their ethnicity because the college admissions process is so unfair. If African-American motorists fear that they will be pulled over by the cops for the phantom offense of “Driving While Black,” these kids worry about what will happen to them when “Applying While Asian.”

Studies have demonstrated what every Asian parent and kid knows: Asians are discriminated against in the admissions process. They are disadvantaged vis-à-vis other minorities and perhaps vis-à-vis whites. In 2005 the Center for Equal Opportunity, a think tank opposed to racial preferences, looked at males applying to the University of Michigan from within the state who had no parental connection to the school. If the applicant had a 1240 SAT score and a 3.2 GPA, he had a 92 percent chance of admission if black and 88 percent if Latino. If white, he had only a 14 percent chance, and if Asian, a 10 percent chance.

Thomas Espenshade, the Princeton University academic and co-author of the book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, examined applicants to elite private schools with comparable grades, scores, athletic abilities, and family histories. He concluded that whites were significantly more likely to get admitted than Asians.

This accounts for what must be the first mass effort of a minority group to “pass as white” since Jim Crow. If nothing else, you can see the emotional appeal of favoring black applicants over whites as a tiny, belated step toward making right a grave historical injustice. (Of course, the white applicants did nothing to deserve this mark against them.) But what have Asian-Americans ever done to anyone else? Do the sons and daughters of Asian immigrants immediately arrive on these shores and begin repressing Caucasians with their famously diligent studies and high test scores, such that the panjandrums of higher education must redress the imbalance with pro-white discrimination?

All of this is done to promote a “diversity” of a crude, bean-counting sort. The private California Institute of Technology doesn’t use quotas; its student body is 39 percent Asian. The University of California at Berkeley is forbidden by law from using quotas; its student body is more than 40 percent Asian. Only a bigot would believe that these schools are consequently worse learning environments, or that they are places characterized by monochromatic, lockstep thinking because so many students share a broad-brush ethnic designation.

The author of The Price of Admission, Daniel Golden, calls Asian-Americans “the new Jews,” a reference to the 20th-century quotas that once kept Jews out of top schools. The difference then was that Jews collectively didn’t stand for the policy, now a watchword for disgraceful bias. Stephen Hsu, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon and an outspoken critic of current admission practices, laments that Asians seem strangely accepting of the unfair treatment of their children. The official Asian-American groups tend to support anti-Asian quotas because they are captives of liberal orthodoxy before all else.

The Obama administration’s misnamed Justice Department has joined with its wishfully named Education Department to urge schools to get creative in circumventing Supreme Court limits on affirmative action. It’s not quite “Asians need not apply,” only that they should expect their ethnicity to be used against them should it become known to the authorities.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate


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