My Take

Glass ceiling for Asians starts in US higher education

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 3:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 3:34am

When it comes to admissions to America's most elite universities and colleges, Asians are like the Jews in the first half of the 20th century.

It is long understood but only recently admitted that many Jews were deliberately excluded because college officials feared an "over-representation" in their student bodies. This has been exposed - or allowed to be acknowledged - because it has been politically correct in America to admit all kinds of wrongdoings against Jews in the last century.

Not so with Asians. It has long been observed that Asians who scored superior grades might still be denied entry to America's Ivy League schools compared with students who are non-white. The reason is again the fear of over-representation. Statistics, in this case, don't lie. At Harvard, for example, the number of Asian-American applicants has tripled in two decades, but fewer were admitted in 2012 than in 1992.

Similar results can be observed at other Ivy League schools. A Harvard spokesman argued that the percentage of admissions had increased from just over 17 per cent to 21 per cent in the last decade, which are higher than the proportion of Asian-Americans in the US population.

Of course, what cannot be said out loud is that if grades were the sole arbiter, the percentage of admissions of Asian-American students would be alarmingly high. And that won't do.

There are three prejudicial forces against Asians. One is the widespread liberal belief that historically discriminated or disadvantaged groups like blacks and Hispanics should have a better chance to attend top schools even if their grades aren't high enough.

The second is the widespread conservative belief that Asians are excellent grade-scorers but not real creative pioneers or leaders, and the Ivy League is all about grooming such exceptional people.

The third is spelled out by the same Harvard spokesman. He said the admissions process is multifaceted, "taking into account letters of recommendation, extra-curricular activities, athletic potential and legacy status" - such as whether the applicant is the child of a graduate.

The glass ceiling does not start in the workplace in the US for Asians. It's already there in higher education.