Colleges and Affirmative Action

I wanted to share a letter that I received recently from George Shen, a business consultant in the Greater Boston area and the father of three boys. Shen, a first-generation American who is concerned about how Asian Americans are treated in the admission process by elite schools, has formed a Facebook page entitled Asian Americans Against Affirmative Action.

If you are interested in the subject of affirmative action in colleges, I’d recommend that you visit Shen’s Facebook page.

This is a topic that you will be hearing a lot about this year because the U.S. Supreme Court will releasing its opinion in the coming moths on the legitimacy of affirmative action in colleges and universities. The case involves  a spurned white applicant and the University of Texas, Austin.

I think it’s quite likely that the Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative bias, will strike down affirmative action. I happen to believe that the concern over affirmative action is way overblown. The percentage of students who benefit from affirmative action at the college level is miniscule. The students who benefit the most from common admission policies are rich students through legacy admits (I wish the court would rule against that practice) and through this hidden and common practice that is illustrated by this article in The New York Times.

If affirmative action is declared illegal, I think it is imperative that schools switch to a class-based admission policy. Students at the lower economic rungs of society should receive preferences from the elite schools, which are essentially the only ones that practice affirmative action. Switching to a class-based affirmative action will eliminate rich students of color who gain entry to schools through this method, which I’ve always thought was unfair.

I haven’t written much about this topic on my blog, but I do devote a couple of chapters to this issue in my book, The College Solution. If you have any thoughts on this explosive topic, please share below!

Lynn O’Shaughnessy

Open Letter – A Call to End Racial Preference in College and University Admissions

Here is what George Shen wrote:

University of Texas 2

University of Texas

I am writing to you regarding the serious violation of equal protection, injustice, and discrimination inflicted by racial preference policies, in particular affirmative action in college admissions, which almost every college-bound Asian American student is confronted with today.  They need your help.

America is poised to become a majority-minority nation. In fact, several states have crossed that line.  Based on the current demographic shift shown in Census data, by 2043 or sooner, it’s projected the whole country will become a majority-minority nation.  Furthermore, the changing national demographics helped President Obama win two elections.  Nobody could argue that President Obama’s 2008 win is an anomaly. Today, not only do minorities hold key positions in all 3 branches of the Federal government but also many of them are successful leaders in business, sports, academia, and news media. The critical mass is reached.

As minorities gain in population and political power nationally, racial preferences given to particular groups are likely to come under fire and scrutiny from public opinions and the judicial courts, if not already. Increasingly, racial preference affirmative action is an inadequate tool against inequality and in fact is now causing more injustice and inequality problems than it is intended to solve.  Can you imagine a race-based preference for Asian athletes in the NBA or the NFL? (See article “What If the NBA Had Quotas”)

Universities and Racial Preferences

It is unfortunate that many American universities and colleges, including prestigious private and public institutions that educate our future leaders, are doing exactly that – secretly and illegally practicing social engineering using racial preference, quota, or race-based point system in their admission process.  The evidence of these widespread practices and the discrimination against Asian American students is overwhelming and has been extensively documented.

Historical college admission data and comparative statistical analyses clearly show that discrimination against Asian American students is systematic and institutionalized in most Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, as well as many public universities, including Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Oklahoma, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Univ. of Nebraska, Univ. of Arizona, Arizona State Univ., Miami Univ., and Ohio State Univ.  As a result, numerous la
lawsuits and complaints were filed against many of these universities by students of several races in the past decades.

College and university admission process is complex and multifaceted. And nobody doubts there are many criteria to assess a student’s aptitude, capabilities, and characters across many dimensions, such as academic merits, socioeconomic status, community service, personal drive and aspiration, citizenship, etc.  But, in this day and age, we should not believe that race is one.  A student’s race has nothing to do with his or her qualifications. Race conscious affirmative action is nothing but a form of racial discrimination and self-righteous social engineering.

A Faceboook Community

AsianInspired by a powerful research paper (See article “The Myth of American Meritocracy”), and at the same time, disappointed by the silence of many rights groups and the lack of voice in Asian American community concerning the hardship and discrimination faced by many Asian American students, I started a virtual community on Facebook – Asian Americans Against Affirmative Action (AAAAA).

AAAAA intends to promote racial equality and social justice through equal access, personal responsibilities, and colorblind or race-neutral policies.  AAAAA is against race-based admission policy which is now widely adopted in many higher institutions.

The AAAAA Facebook page has a wealth of information on the topic of affirmative action including an exhaustive collection of historic events, important court cases, interviews of intellectuals, reviews, debates, articles by subject matter experts, books by prominent scholars, reports, commentaries, op-eds, and many links to blogs, videos. I hope you find it resourceful and informative.

If you don’t want to live a society where our children are afraid of telling their race or ethnicity to colleges, if you don’t want to live in a society where racial preference is given to one group or groups over others, if you don’t want to live in a society where our nation’s most prestigious universities consciously social-engineer our future, then race-based affirmative action must be defeated and outlawed by the highest court and by every state.

In fact, 7 states – Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Washington – have banned racial preferences in college admissions.
We invite people of all races, not just Asian Americans, to join the fight for racial equality and justice. Together, we can raise the public awareness, influence policy makers, and work towards abolishing the race-based affirmative action policy once and for all.

George Shen

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5 Responses to Colleges and Affirmative Action

  1. Denise February 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Hi Lynn,
    Ugh! This letter makes my stomach turn. He is mad about Asians having a harder time than blacks getting into big-name colleges. At least, I’m assuming his problem is with the tiny number of blacks, since he compares a college education with the NBA, which has nothing to do with anyone’s ability to get an education or, ultimately, a decent job. Shall we run through a tit-for-tat list of discriminatory practices in all industries? For example, why aren’t there black stewards on Singapore Airlines?

    I have also read that Asians must achieve more impressive qualifications to get into some private colleges, and I agree that it’s not fair. But by focusing only on what he seems to think Asian students can’t get (as if Asians are one group), and disregarding why there’s need for any affirmative action in the first place, he is presenting half an argument, and it’s a self-serving one. There are plenty of underserved populations in the U.S. who need an extra hand to get into college and maybe break through in a way that their parents didn’t.

    That’s the bigger issue.

    • Arisa February 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      First of all, the point of the article is not to compare a college education to the NBA. That part is merely an introduction into the article that gives an example of discrimination applied to a setting that more people would understand.

      Did you know many Asians come from immigrant families? Most of these families come to America with nothing except the desire for their children to succeed and have a better life than they had. Why are they less worthy of help (or a level playing field) than a family that has been in American for many generations and has not made significant advancements?

      The bigger issue is, why is there any discrimination at all?

  2. David February 23, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Lynn,

    Reality Check time….

    I think the “affirmative action” admissions process should be for the benefit of the economically disadvantaged – Period.

    There are too many when race enters into the admissions process as a “right”, whether it’s “white” or “minority” I live in an area where “Asians” live. They amount to nearly 40% of the student body. But if you dig deeper, you will find prejudices exist in this minority, along with Hispanics. I am not trying to sound prejudice in these statements, but when one digs deeper, beyond the “continent of origin”, you will find that, for example, the “Chinese” regard themselves separate and different than the “Taiwanese”., and the Japanese see themselves as different than the Vietnamese, or the Koreans. We have found at the PTA level that many of these families have appeared to choose to isolate themselves, until the second or so generation. They don’t lump themselves into one group socially when you look at it that way.

    The major issue is how are we to determine who is really “disadvantaged.” A wealthy Korean family from LaCanada, CA is different than a poor Vietnamese family from say, Garden Grove, CA. Irvine has all generally middle and upper class Asians from all these countries. Are they being prejudiced? I don’t think so. We have seen many instances where these students are coming from PUBLIC high schools to Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, to name a few. But, are they really disadvantaged, which is the original premise behind Affirmative Action?

    Affirmative Action, as a factor in admissions in this country, was was originally thought to provide for a past inequities in racial admissions to universities. They have done there job.

    Unfortunately, as a result of the University of California’s current polity(without Affirmative Action), nearly 50% of admitted students to the University of California are Asian. That is a terrible injustice to the African American community, which has seen a decline in student admissions during the same period. Please see the Data Sets, to confirm it, if you don’t think so. So much for removing “social engineering” :)

    Also, the “balancing act” done by private universities can easily be “rigged” by taking in so-called minorities from wealthy families. Does this program actually help the poor and economically disadvantaged student – No. There are still, too many “majority” children, from poor families, desperately trying to get into colleges, and turned away too.

    A more balanced approach would be to look at the financial or economic condition of the applying student. Take that into consideration. Then make the judgment. Our children care less about race today – more than ever. What they are concerned about is the poor. Maybe we should ask them what they want.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy February 23, 2013 at 4:53 am #

      HI David,

      Thanks for your great observations. I think I agree with everything you said.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  3. Yan Zhang December 30, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Hi Lynn,

    Nice post. I would like to provide my own input about this issue as well. I am an Asian American and I know for a fact that Asian Americans are good at taking tests. Whether that scoring ability will translate into any tangible asset for the society is an open question. By far, the data in the U.S. does not equate a high SAT score with any indication of future success in life or work. Further, the so called bias against Asian applicants in the college admission process has not been proven by any reputable scholars using acceptable or logical methods.

    Further, author Mr. Shen, who wrote the open letter cited in your blog, does not seem to be a true warrior against inequality. In fact, he seems to be a racist himself. For instance, the following are a few posts he wrote in a public forum when using the alias of Yariguy and when promoting for his facebook page AAAAA:
    1) “accenture, e&y, deloitte ……one has more indians than the other not to mention cognizant, hcl, wipro, tata, etc. fvcking indians everywhere.”
    link:
    http://www.mitbbs.com/article/NewJersey/31834651_0.html
    2) “You are a f’ing assh0le. did you see how indians marginalized chinese in IT industry? f you. go back to your indian boss and lick his ass. ”
    link:
    http://www.mitbbs.com/article/SanFrancisco/34085781_0.html
    3) “Assh0le, what the f are you talking about? are you out of your f mind? Zhang, you deserve to be a second citizen in this country, even below the Indians, whose ass you love to kiss. don’t worry about AAAAA, while you are bullshitting here, we got 20 more likes. you sure look like a moron arguing against it”
    link:
    http://www.mitbbs.com/article/SanFrancisco/34085949_0.html

    Based on the above posts, Mr. Shen has no regard of human decency. Still he was using his AAAAA facebook page to add gold to his own face. It make me wonder, what secrete purpose he had when he put up his AAAAA facebook page, which claimed that the AAAAA organization was created in 1950, the year before he was born.

    I wonder if any user who liked the AAAAA facebook page knew that Mr. Shen has two faces: one to show his true color and one to fool others. I admire hardworking Americans, Indian or non-Indian. It is inescapable that Mr. Shen insulted the Indian immigrant community and should be reminded that the cyberspace does not tolerate his discrimination against Indian immigrants. Such brazen attacks are even worse that the alleged bias against Asian applicants in college education.

    Regards,

    Yan

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