February 6, 2013

Cornell: Asian Americans Not Held to Higher Admissions Standard

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Discrimination against Asian Americans in the college admissions process grabbed national attention when an Asian American student claimed that Princeton University and Harvard University rejected him because of his race. Cornell administrators and professors, however, have split on their views of whether this phenomenon is present on Cornell’s campus.

A.T. Miller, vice provost for academic diversity, said that in his experience, Asian Americans are not held to a higher standard during the admission process at Cornell.

“We don’t have specific Asian-American admissions. We don’t admit by identity,” Miller said.

In fact, the percentage of Asian Americans in the incoming freshman classes has increased over the past three years. Asian Americans comprised 14.9 percent of the Class of 2014, 16.4 percent of the Class of 2015 and 16.9 percent of the Class of 2016, according to the University’s Institutional Research and Planning.

However, Prof. Thomas Espenshade, sociology, Princeton University, wrote in his book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, that nationally, Asian Americans are automatically penalized in the application process. According to Espenshade, Asian Americans have to score 140 points higher than their white classmates on the SAT in order to have the same chance of being admitted into an elite college.

Still, Miller said that the SAT is one part of a much larger application, and that it is not the sole deciding factor when admitting students. At Cornell, the decision of whether or not a student is accepted or denied is based on several other factors, such as their extracurricular activities and educational background, he added.

“The [SAT] is not what we base admission on. The exam is a very flawed exam and it doesn’t predict people’s success in college. It’s just one factor,” he said.

Miller said he questioned whether this phenomenon of Asian Americans being held to a higher standard during the admission process actually exists.

“It’s one thing to have that perception; it would be another to have direct evidence that it is happening,” he said.

While Miller said that Asian Americans are not treated in a discriminatory fashion during the admission process, other faculty members are more apprehensive when assessing the validity of the phenomenon.

Prof. Derek Chang, history and Asian American studies, said there is no definitive answer to this very complicated question, because the sub-group of Asian Americans as a whole is very diverse. He added that the question of whether Asian Americans are being held to a high standard in the admission process is a difficult one to answer.

“It’s unclear, which is not a satisfying answer. There is a lot of conflicting evidence,” Chang said.

The charges brought against Harvard and Princeton alleging discrimination against Asian Americans in the admission process have since been dropped, which reflects the complexity of not only the issue but of admissions data as well, according to Chang.

However, Chang said the resulting investigation was dropped because there seemed to be no evidence of discrimination in the admission process.

Original Author: Margaret Yoder