Michael Li / Sun Staff Photographer

October 20, 2016

Students Debate Implications of Race-Based Admissions for Asian Americans

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The Cornell Speech and Debate Society and Dyson Inclusion and Diversity Program hosted a debate Thursday, discussing whether Asian Americans should support or oppose race-based admissions policies.

The debate topic referenced a discrimination case lodged against the University in late August by the Asian American Coalition for Education. The group filed a complaint with the Department of Education, accusing both Cornell and Columbia University of discriminating against an Asian student in their admissions processes.

Ankur Biswas ’17, assigned to advocate that Asian Americans oppose race-based admissions policies, argued that the Asian American community should be advocating for socioeconomic-based affirmative action rather than race-based affirmative action.

“By having the Asian American community advocate for this, we are still going to get a large amount of inclusion, because socio-economic oppression is linked to economic oppression and the ability to afford or access resources that allow one to get into a university,” he said.

On the opposite side, Boya Zhang ’20 argued that Asian Americans should campaign for race-based affirmative action as they are “under an obligation” to uphold a system that actively respects and benefits all different minorities.

Emma Rose Wirshing ’19, who was opposing race-based admissions policies, said that expecting the Asian American community to accept a system that implicitly oppresses them is “morally reprehensible.” She added that Asian Americans should prioritize their own cause.

“Affirmative action is a broken system, and it is not worth sacrificing the Asian American cause over it,” she said. “Even if protesting affirmative action does cause some amount of negative effects for other minority groups, it is still principally justified that the Asian American community, or any other community, prioritizes their own advances and rights as a minority over other minorities.”

Alexander Chakrin ’17, who was on the side of race-based policies, said individuals have an obligation to advocate beyond their own self-interest, emphasizing that not all Asian Americans are necessarily hurt by affirmative action.

Chakrin added that people must build cross-cultural and racial empathy to solve current problems and address systemic barriers that exist for minority groups.

“Right now … the model minority narrative exists, where if individuals abide by this American dream, if they work hard and play by the rules, they are able to achieve success,” he said. “This ignores the systematic barriers that exist, and it assumes that with a little American gumption and a little apple pie you’ll be able to succeed in anything you do.”