Is The "Asian Ceiling" A Necessary Evil?

Want to go to a good college? Besides doing your homework, studying hard, and acing the SAT, it sure helps if you weren't born Asian.

While this isn't exactly a new phenomenon ("overachieving" Asians have been blamed for ruining the curve and the college admission "reverse discrimination" charge has been around since before I went to college many, many moons ago), this article by Kara Miller at The Boston Globe does raise an interesting question: is the "Asian ceiling" a necessary evil in order to maintain a racially diverse college environment?

Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal’’ that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an “Asian ceiling’’ at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture. [...]

A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians - who constitute 5 percent of the US population - faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken.

But would Yale be willing to make 50 percent of its freshman class Asian? Probably not.

Indeed, as Princeton’s Nieli suggests, most elite universities appear determined to keep their Asian-American totals in a narrow range. Yale’s class of 2013 is 15.5 percent Asian-American, compared with 16.1 percent at Dartmouth, 19.1 percent at Harvard, and 17.6 percent at Princeton. [...]

In a country built on individual liberty and promise, that feels deeply unfair. If a teenager spends much time studying, excels at an instrument or sport, and garners wonderful teacher recommendations, should he be punished for being part of a high-achieving group? Are his accomplishments diminished by the fact that people he has never met - but who look somewhat like him - also work hard?


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Actually, @people, 15.5% Asian-Americans in the Yale class of 2013 is shockingly low--approximately 1/3 of the class of 2000 was Asian-American! I can't imagine what would account for such a drop in admissions from that growing population of qualified students other than a quota policy of some sort.
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you've got anecdotal evidence of asians not being artistically inclined? where have you been? have you heard of a little thing called Art Center of Design in Pasadena? This is a DESIGN school that in its transportation design where 50% or above the enrollment are Korean. By the way, who do you think is designing current crop of cars these days? Why don't you look up who penned the design for the new Camaro? Hint:it's not some white guy.
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16% average for the top schools out of a 5% national total is still pretty darn high. Why don't we have more high ranking Asians, software pioneers as opposed to talented software designers? Is that a sign of discrimination that continues into the work place or is it a byproduct of the focus of their upbringing?

These are things worth looking into but it doesn't change the fact that there should be zero adjustment in the curve, if the Asian kids are scoring higher then they should get everything they deserve. If it's time for the German, English and Irish immigrant kids to step down and let the next batch take over, then that's entirely in accordance with the ideals that America is founded on.

Maybe this is just a sign of a superpower in decline grasping at straws, striking at the "enemy" within, cowering in the shadow China's towering financial phallus.
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i'll feel bad for them when others feel bad for me for having african american students Way favored over me.

i'm an m.d. and i'll tell you right now it's not hard to get accepted / get a degree if you are black. at least back in the 80's. the asians are discriminated against.

i think we should just dump ethnicity as a factor. if 50% of yale is asian? good for them!

who cares what color the dog is in the race?

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Just a family anecdote: my middle daughter's husband is from Mexico. When they wanted to apply to a magnet school, my daughter did some research to see if they needed more white or more Latinos, and registered my grandson accordingly. Magnet schools in LA have to be racially balanced. The magnet school he attended had children of every heritage imaginable, and most of them were mixed. I think that's the future of the US. Eventually race will become a non-issue as the majority will be multi-racial.
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