Talking about Asian American receptions | Tech US News


On October 12, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne released a statement apologizing on behalf of the university for restricting admissions to Jewish students in the 1950s. Allegations of unfair admissions policies were exposed by Charles Petersen, a postdoctoral fellow in Cornell’s Department of History, in his blog post, “How I Discovered Stanford’s Jewish Quota.” Later, Tessier-Lavigne appointed a task force to investigate the situation and found “evidence of measures taken to suppress the number of Jewish students admitted to Stanford in the early 1950s.”

In the 1950s, Stanford’s application did not ask about a student’s religion or ethnicity. Thus, former Director of Admissions Rixford Snyder, who wanted to limit the enrollment of Jewish students, needed an intermediary to determine whether a student was Jewish. According to the president’s statement, discriminatory practices were found in the admissions of students from “two Los Angeles high schools—Beverly Hills and Fairfax—whose student populations were between ’95 to 98% Jewish.’ The task force members “found a ‘sharp drop’ in the number of students enrolled at Stanford from these schools – 87 enrolled in 1949-1952, but only 14 in 1952-55 – not seen at any other public school in the 1950- ih and 1960s.” In short, Snyder barred students from some high schools with a high proportion of Jewish students to circumvent Stanford’s policy of not making admissions decisions based on race or religion.

First, I would like to commend Stanford for its apology; it is rare for a university of this forge to atone for its sins. However, as an Asian American, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the context of this apology. It comes at a time when Asian-American students are believed to be facing similar problems to Jewish students in the 1950s, such as subjective admissions criteria and lower relative acceptance rates that emerged as a result of the Harvard admissions lawsuit.

In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing on race-conscious admissions, I want to say that this article is not about “affirmative action,” which I sincerely believe is essential to fostering a diverse class. Nor is it an article that falsely equates barriers for Jewish students in the 1950s with barriers for Asian-American students, since the situations are contextually incomparable. That said, I think the recent events that have occurred warrant a discussion about the state of admissions for Asian American students.

One point of contention is that Asian Americans score lower on the “personality assessment,” an assessment Harvard describes as illustrating “character traits” such as “courage,” “leadership” and “humility,” among other traits. Even in the 1950s, Stanford’s college admissions committee was concerned about the use of “personal characteristics,” which believed that a ten-point scale used to admit applicants, four points of which were devoted to “personal evaluation,” “openly subjective”. .” Today, Stanford uses a “personal assessment” similar to Harvard’s assessment and a ten-point scale in the 1950s in a category called “SPIV” that is said to refer to “intellectual vitality.”

Another note in the lawsuit is that “between 2003 and 2012, the percentage of Asian Americans at Harvard fluctuated only slightly above and below about 17 percent,” despite the fact that “by 2008, Asian Americans made up more than 27 percent of Harvard. group of applicants.” Similarly, one of Snyder’s concerns was “that more than a quarter of applications from men [were] from Jewish boys,” and this increasing competition among applicants meant that he “had to develop a rationale for determining which students to accept and which to reject.” Although Stanford does not publish applicant statistics by race, there is no reason to believe they are significantly different from Harvard’s.

Furthermore, there is precedent to show that discrimination can exist. Stanford has a history of discriminating against applicants of Asian descent; in 1986 Stanford junior Jeffrey Au raised concerns about Asian-American admissions and why, according to the Los Angeles Times, “Asian-American admissions rates are only 65% ​​to 70% compared to whites. A Stanford Academic Senate committee found that “‘unconscious bias’ caused the disparity in acceptance rates, and immediately after the report, the acceptance rate for Asian-American students rose to 89 percent of the white acceptance rate.” Additionally, in the 1980s, other elite schools such as Brown University and the University of California, Berkeley, found evidence of discrimination against Asian Americans, with the former concluding after an internal review that there was a “serious problem” and the latter issuing a statement in which she apologized. for “disadvantaged Asians”.

Potential biases that were present in the 1950s and 1980s remain today, and investigations into both historical cases have produced evidence of discriminatory practices. Stanford, if you’re willing to investigate the unfair admissions policies of the 1950s that raise concerns similar to those of today’s policies, you should also investigate your own policies in 2022 and make them transparent. Do we have to wait for incriminating evidence in terms of Petersen’s discovery of Jewish quotas before engaging in such a debate?

For my Asian-American peers at Stanford, it’s easy to become complacent as a beneficiary of the system. You may look at your application file and disagree with this part, but it’s important to realize that your application was accepted regardless of your race over twenty rejected – and we don’t know why. From the task force report, Paul Seaver, who joined the Stanford faculty in 1964 from Reed College, claimed that “the kids I knew at Reed said, ‘[Stanford doesn’t] accept Jews, certainly not from Los Angeles.”” for many Asian American students.

So, please, can we talk again about your Asian American student admissions policy? This includes discussing unpleasant details after controlling for factors other than race. For example:

  • What is the meaning of labels like “diverse” and “VIP” and which subgroups and what proportion of Asian Americans receive them?
  • What does the process of “designing” look like to ensure a diverse class, and does it disproportionately affect Asian Americans?
  • Is there still an “unconscious bias” against Asian Americans like there was in 1986, and if so, how do we combat it?

Stanford, I welcome the fact that race is considered a factor in admissions as long as it helps promote equity and does not harm particular groups. All I’m calling for is transparency. You can only gain by improving your reputation as a school with fair admissions—however you define “fair”—among Asian-American communities, a topic that has been controversial for decades. We deserve to know.

Charles Li is a sophomore in the class of 2025 with interests in data science, creative writing, and music. In his free time, he enjoys practicing piano at the Braun Music Center, writing prose poetry, listening to k-pop, and watching both versions of West Side Story.


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