...think of it as your Asian American Studies TA lounge...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whiter than White...or...Changing the Rules of the Game

Asian Americans and the Shifts in Higher Education Admissions Standards

When discussing the issue of Asian Americans and higher education, inevitably the "overrepresentation" of Asian American students will arise. Of course, most of us have heard the standard arguments against such statements: differential impacts on the spectrum of Asian American ethnic groups, Asian traditions value hard work and education, etc. etc. Rather than dwell on these well established commentaries, I would like to draw attention to an often unmentioned racism within this discourse on Asian Americans and higher education admissions.

If we are to assume (as many scholars and admissions officers do) that:

  1. Asian Americans are one-dimensional students, they excel only in the academic (particularly math and science).
  2. Increase competition over admissions slots at all levels of colleges and university slots will demand a change in admissions criteria and selection processes.

I am not saying that these assumptions are true, but I am saying that they are part of the general working knowledge and discourse of lay people and admissions professionals. Right or wrong, these "facts" then function as truth and basis for shaping admissions policies.

Food for Thought:

Changes in admissions processes have attempted to create greater differentiation between an overwhelming number of academically excellent applicants. Many of these changes have taken the form of greater consideration of extracurricular activities in admissions decisions. What seems absent is consideration on how changes to admissions standards will affect the demographic make-ups of incoming freshman classes, particularly for communities of color.

While Asian Americans have long been well-rounded students at elite institutions, they are still perceived to be one-dimensional. Their extracurricular engagement, perhaps, are not catching admissions officers' eyes in the same way as those applicants of other racial backgrounds. While university and colleges are often lauded for their more comprehensive approach to determining a student’s admissions fate, few are question the socio-cultural implications of what is valued as extracurricular activities or how access to such activities may be limited to particular segments of our society due to any number of characteristics (i.e., socioeconomic status, geography, gender, sexual orientation, race).

I am not a proponent for the strict usage of standardized test scores and GPAs to allow for college admissions, certainly these are not objective measures either. But if we are going to rethink admissions strategies on a broad scale we must take a broader perspective.

No comments: