Though Asian-Americans constitute only about 4.5% of the U.S. population, they typically account for anywhere from 10% to 30% of students at many of the nation's elite colleges. Even so, based on their outstanding grades and test scores, Asian-Americans increasingly say their enrollment should be much higher -- a contention backed by a growing body of evidence.The situation has resulted in increased lawsuits against premier universities for discrimination. For example, a China-born US permanent resident, 17-year-old freshman, Mr Jian Li at Yale University has filed a suit against Princeton. Despite racking up the maximum 2400 score on the SAT and 2390 -- 10 points below the ceiling -- on SAT2 subject tests in physics, chemistry and calculus, Mr. Li was spurned by three Ivy League universities, including Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It appears that applicants of Asian-American origins are subjected to higher entry requirements than other Americans.
...Center for Equal Opportunity, in Virginia, found that Asian applicants admitted to the University of Michigan in 2005 had a median SAT score of 1400 on the 400-1600 scale then in use. That was 50 points higher than the median score of white students who were accepted, 140 points higher than that of Hispanics and 240 points higher than that of blacksAnd apparently these allegations aren't new. Harvard University and University of California have both been placed under scrutiny previously.
In 1989, as the federal government was investigating alleged Asian-American quotas at UC's Berkeley campus, Berkeley's chancellor apologized for a drop in Asian enrollment. The next year, federal investigators found that the mathematics department at UCLA had discriminated against Asian-American graduate school applicants. In 1992, Berkeley's law school agreed under federal pressure to drop a policy that limited Asian enrollment by comparing Asian applicants against each other rather than the entire applicant pool.What was also interesting was that Mr Li was required to fill in questions on college applications about his ethnicity, just as we Malaysians do. He left the answers blank for "[i]t seemed very irrelevant to [him], if not offensive," and rightly so, I would think.
Asian-American enrollment at Berkeley has increased since California voters banned affirmative action in college admissions. Berkeley accepted 4,122 Asian-American applicants for this fall's freshman class -- nearly 42% of the total admitted. That is up from 2,925 in 1997, or 34.6%, the last year before the ban took effect.
Hence discrimination, albeit more subtle, exists even in the land of equal opportunities. However, that's where the similarities between the Malaysian and the US education and governanace system end.
While discrimination and bias, being a function of individual personalities will definitely exist in all levels of society, there is a concerted attempt to remove such injustices in the United States. Unlike in Malaysia, whereby discrimination is often institutionalised, there is recourse for discrimination victims in the United States such as the legal action by Mr Li. And such recourse have obviously proven to be effective for, based on the examples cited, clear evidence of changes in policies and trends have been recorded.
Even in situations whereby discriminations appear subtle and not institutionalised in Malaysia, there is effectively little or no recourse for students in Malaysia, as cited in my earlier blog post on "Managed Meritocracy". To demonstrate the government's commitment to ensure that there are no discrimination beyond the institutionalised positive affirmative action policies, it has to establish an independent empowered body to monitor and evaluate complaints of discrimination, whether based on ethnicity, religion or gender.
Thanks to Mark for the heads up on this report ;)