May 2, 2006
Written by C.N.
For the first time in history, the largest racial/ethnic group admitted to the University of California universities were Asian American — even surpassing the number of Whites admitted:
Asians account for 36 percent of California residents admitted to study at UC schools, though they make up only 14 percent of seniors projected to graduate from the state’s public high schools. By comparison, white students comprised 35.6% of those accepted; Latinos, 17.6%; African-Americans, 3.4%; and American Indians, 0.6%. . . .
College counselors say Asian parents tend to focus on UC because it’s affordable, prestigious and offers high value for the cost. Asian students also applied to UC schools at higher rates than other students and are more likely to enroll if admitted, officials said.
UC staff, faculty and administration remain largely white, despite the changing student body, said L. Ling-chi Wang, chairman of UC-Berkeley’s ethnic studies department. He also said campus services, such as counseling and cultural activities, have not shifted to reflect the growth in numbers of Asian students.
While proud of Asian students — “they should be rewarded for working hard,” he said — Wang worries about the loss of diversity on campus. “I personally enjoy teaching classes that have a good mix of races. It is more enriching and challenging to have a diversity of backgrounds,” he said.
While this is certainly a clear indication of how much Asian Americans have succeeded in terms of becoming an integral part of the U.C. system, Prof. Wang brings up a very good point — at what point do Asian Americans become too numerous and therefore, a hindrance to the goal of promoting racial/ethnic diversity?
In fact, this argument against the rising presence of Asian Americans on college campuses has been used before to limit the number of Asian American admittees in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These incidents resulted in a big backlash against many universities around the country (including some U.C.’s) by Asian Americans and to the conclusion by many observers that Asian Americans, like Whites, were now victims of affirmative action.
There is no easy answer here, but again Prof. Wang notes that what the U.C. system should do is not to go back to what they tried in the late 1980s and artificially limit the number of Asian admittees. Rather, in trying to achieve racial/ethnic diversity, the U.C. system needs to open more campuses to meet the overwhelming demand among students, and to reach out to groups that are still underrepresented, such as Blacks, American Indians, and Latinos.
In other words, college admissions does not have to be a zero-sum proposition — there can be plenty of opportunities to go around if the proper steps in that direction are taken.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "More Asians Than Whites in UC Admissions" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/05/more-asians-than-whites-in-uc-admissions/> ().
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