Li’s playing the world’s smallest violin

November 20, 2006 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

Posted by Dee

Yes, I know the title is cliché, but I couldn’t think of any other way to express my reactions towards this Jian Li character I’ve been reading so much about lately.

I’ve been following with piqued interest for several days now about this whole Princeton vs. Li upcoming lawsuit ordeal. Fellow blogger, Sam Jackson, provides a great, slightly-lengthy recap of the issue at hand in his post titled, “WSJ asks: ‘Is Admissions Bar Higher for Asians At Elite Schools?’ [part 1]” which I will not rewrite again here; I do recommend reading through it to familiarize yourself with the debate and points of contention.

Here’s my take:

I’m a fan of merit. I do support the idea that if you’re more qualified than another candidate, you should get admitted. But, that said, this is not what college admissions is about. In the InsideHigherEd.com article from October 10 titled, “Too Asian?,” (which is also a read I recommend) they report that, with regards to Asian applicants being held to higher standards than Whites, “intensity of concern has grown, as has mistrust of the system.”

Honestly, this is laughable! What system? Since when has college admissions ever been a fair game?

Princeton’s case-in-point, I say, “Boo hoo, Jian.” You didn’t get into Princeton, and neither did 90% of the people who applied.

I understand that you are whining about how Asians are being held to higher standards in admissions that non-Asians, but as it has already been pointed out, this does look a bit dim in comparison to the bias other racial groups have faced in the past.

The fact of the matter is that not all the qualified Asians can be accepted into every school to which they apply.

In Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Web site, they write that one of their goals is to “recruit and retain a more diverse student body.” Princeton’s Wythes Committee published in 2000 a revised mission statement for the university and wrote that “Princeton is currently distinguished by… an undergraduate student body composed of individuals who have exceptional academic promise, strong personal qualities, and a variety of backgrounds…” Harvard, Yale, WashU, Penn, the University of California, Brown, Emory, Duke, you name it, virtually every top university had its leaders endorse the American Association of Universities’s “On the Importance of Diversity in University Admissions” in 1997 where they agreed to “take into account a wide range of considerations–including ethnicity, race, and gender–as we evaluate the students whom we select for admission.”

I will reiterate. Top schools DO consider ethnicity, race, and gender. Perhaps, as they should. After all, their mission is to create diversity. And how horribly they would fail at achieving diversity if all qualified Asians were admitted. Unlike the East Coast private schools, the University of California has already been smacked by lawsuits regarding affirmative action, and arguably, more generally, regarding attempting to create diversity in their schools. When the UC Regents were sued in the 70s for using quotas to enhance diversity on campus, they were shot down. Now, take a look at the top UC campuses and you’ll see that UCLA and Berkeley are both nearly 50% Asian, and keep in mind that this is for a state that is only currently 10% Asian in composition.

Is this a bad thing? Perhaps, no. Perhaps, yes.

Is this diversity? Definitely, no. Any reasonable person would conclude logically that diversity is not achieved when a school is 50% comprised of one ethnicity. Is seems that nowadays, although the notion is counterintuitive, we do forego diversity by accepting minorities in too large of numbers.

So now the question is: Do we care?

It seems to me that when we admit students solely on merit, we sacrifice diversity, just as when we accept diversity we may at times sacrifice merit.

This is the essence of the dilemma universities face today. And there is no real solution.

It is merely about priorities, what a given university prefers: merit or diversity. Clearly for many schools diversity IS valued, and hence merit IS sacrificed on occasion. But, this is a decision for each given school to make; a decision which can be, and will be, little influenced by one rejected applicant’s begrudged lawsuit.

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Entry filed under: Academics, Accepted, Admissions, AdmitSpit, Application, Asian, California, Colleges/Universities, Community, Competition, Confidential, Conspiracy, Cornell, Debate, Description, Diversity, Education, Flexibility, Gender, Harvard, Merit, Princeton, Reading, Rejected, Statistics, Stereotype, UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of California, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, Washington University in Saint Louis, Website, Yale.

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