Friday, December 21, 2012

Shut Up and Get Stupid?

Elite universities in the US have long had so-called diversity programs. The diversity programs were originally a response to the SAT test. When colleges started admitting students on the basis of academics, the elite quickly found that they had an alumni annoying problem - too many Jews. The answer was the diversity program, a set of policies intended to ensure that they had a broad representation of the public. With affirmative action, these programs expanded to encourage acceptance of disadvantaged minorities, which in practice meant those whose academics would otherwise exclude them.

Nowadays, the main point of such programs has been limiting the proportion of Asians in the student body. Carolyn Chen's Op-Ed in the NYT (Are Asians Too Smart for their Own Good?) is the latest essay on the topic.

Asian-Americans constitute 5.6 percent of the nation’s population but 12 to 18 percent of the student body at Ivy League schools. But if judged on their merits — grades, test scores, academic honors and extracurricular activities — Asian-Americans are underrepresented at these schools. Consider that Asians make up anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the student population at top public high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science in New York City, Lowell in San Francisco and Thomas Jefferson in Alexandria, Va., where admissions are largely based on exams and grades.

In a 2009 study of more than 9,000 students who applied to selective universities, the sociologists Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford found that white students were three times more likely to be admitted than Asians with the same academic record.

California's elite public universities and the private California Institute of Technology all have race blind admissions and 40% plus Asian students - almost twice as large as the equivalent percentages at Stanford and MIT, and three times the percentages of the top Ivies.