News » Community » For Asian American students battling discrimination in college admissions, now something more startling: ‘race-based grading’

For Asian American students battling discrimination in college admissions, now something more startling: ‘race-based grading’

University of Wisconsin-Madison may set an unsavory trend.

By Sujeet Rajan

NEW YORK: That Asian American students are discriminated against in admissions to Ivy League universities is a well-known fact. In the last few years, several cases and probes have come up which involve an Indian American or a Chinese American student filing a complaint against Harvard, Princeton, and Yale for non-admission despite being academically perfect, but overlooked.

In fact, Harvard’s treatment of Asian-American applicants had come under the spotlight as early as 1990, when stereotyping was found to be frequent amongst evaluators, such as this comment about one Asian-American candidate: “He’s quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor,” according to a report by Bloomberg.

From the universities’ standpoint, it is not hard to see why they choose diversity – read ‘case by case selection’ as they may like to put it – and try and get as perfect a balance as possible in classrooms, without ruffling too many feathers: Asian American students and Whites would otherwise dominate classrooms, leaving most Black and the Hispanic students to be segregated in lesser known institutions.

A new report by Kevin Binversie, the Web Editor of Right Wisconsin, now throws up another facet of a US institution, which may mark a growing trend nationwide as the country slowly slips into becoming a non-Caucasian majority, with the Hispanic population growing in numbers rapidly.

According to Binversie’s report, the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) may indulge in ‘race-based grading’.

The report quotes from an Op-Ed piece written by Lee Hansen, a professor emeritus of economics at UW-M, for the John William Hope Pope Center for Higher Education, a North Carolina-based think tank, about the latest “diversity” plan. “Representational equity” is being applied to levels never before seen, analyzes Binversie.

Hansen’s report calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”

That of course, is exactly what would lead to further discrimination against deserving Asian American and White students who score well above other students in SAT and subject-wise exams, in an effort to gain admission into schools of their choice.

According to Binversie, Hansen’s report means that “professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, “historically underrepresented racial/ethnic” students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.”

This, as Binversie rightly points out, would mean even greater expenditures on special tutoring for weaker targeted minority students.

“It is also likely to trigger a new outbreak of grade inflation, as professors find out that they can avoid trouble over “inequitable” grade distributions by giving every student a high grade.” He questions UW-M at the end of the report: “are they still an institute of higher learning, or an institute of higher diversity?”

A 2012 report by Bloomberg pointed out that studies have shown that Asian-American applicants have to outperform their counterparts from other backgrounds on the SAT to gain entry to elite universities.

That report also informed that Asian-Americans admitted to the UW-M in 2008 had a median math and reading SAT score of 1370 out of 1600, compared to 1340 for whites, 1250 for Hispanics, and 1190 for blacks, citing a 2011 study by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Falls Church, Virginia-based nonprofit group that opposes racial preferences in college admissions.

“Clearly, both whites and Asian-Americans are discriminated against vis a vis African-Americans and Latinos,” Roger Clegg, the center’s president, was quoted as saying in that report. “At some of the more selective schools, Asians are also discriminated against vis a vis whites.”

According to “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” a 2009 book co-written by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, Asian-Americans need to score 140 points more than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points above African-Americans out of a maximum 1600 on the math and reading SAT to have the same chance of admission to a private college.

Another Bloomberg report also said that budget-strapped state schools such as the University of California at San Diego are reducing enrollment of Asian- Americans to make room for international students from China who pay almost twice the tuition of in-state residents.

However, even more startling to some may be the fact that UW-M has also the backing of the Supreme Court, if they really go ahead and implement the troubling race-based grading, which is sure to bring down the confidence of bright students and induce students with lesser grades to take it as granted that they would make the cut in life despite academic follies.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case, which upheld the use of race by the University of Michigan law school to achieve a “critical mass” of under-represented minority groups such as blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.

The odds seem to be piling up against some students who spend more and more of their time poring over books and preparing for exams in college.


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