A+ Asians: Are they diverse?

Students on the Berkeley campus. Photo: Eric Risberg, AP.

University of California schools rank high for educating diverse, first-generation students, writes Alia Wong in The Atlantic. Banned from considering race or ethnicity, UC has kept tuition low, enrolled community college transfers and targeted recruitment at lower-income and first-generation students, she writes. “Latinos are now the fastest growing and second-largest ethnic group admitted to the UC system, making up close to three in 10 of last year’s freshmen class.”

But focusing on economic diversity lets UC win points while admitting many Asian-Americans, complains Wong.

The highly selective UC campuses are known, sometimes bitterly, to serve especially disproportionate numbers of Asian students; Asians famously make up half of the undergraduates at UC Irvine, for example . . .

California has taken in many Vietnamese refugees and low-income Chinese immigrants. They speak English as a second language, go to public schools in their working-class neighborhoods — and often qualify for state universities.

Other high scorers are the children of Indian and Chinese engineers, who aced tests in their home countries. (Check out the winners in Google’s Science Fair. Six of eight have Indian names.)

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai invented a way to use corn cobs to filter water.

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, 13, invented a way to use corn cobs to clean pollutants from waste water.

Not all Asian-Americans — or those grouped with them in diversity data — excel in school, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity in a new report on the “model minority stereotype.”

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have much lower success rates than students of Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese ancestry. Southeast Asians from Laotian, Hmong and Cambodian families also tend to struggle in school.

There’s lots of individual variation in any group. Look at Cuban-Americans vs. Puerto Ricans or black immigrants from the West Indies vs. American-born blacks. We could be more precise about divvying people into racial/ethnic/cultural groups. I think it makes more sense to focus on socioeconomic disadvantage.

My niece is an 11th grader starting to look at colleges. Should she declare her 1/4 Mexican heritage on applications? It has no bearing on who she is as a student or as a person. If asked, my advice would be: Don’t.

Princeton’s discrimination against Asian-American applicants is OK with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, writes John Rosenberg on Minding the Campus. He analyzes a 20-page September 9 letter to Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber.

Banning ‘intolerance’ on campus

I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it — unless it offends someone. That’s not how the quote goes.

The University of California Regents may recognize a “right” to be “free from … expressions of intolerance,” writes Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, in the Washington Post.
The proposed policy, which will be discussed Thursday, starts with a commitment to “the core principles of respect, inclusion, academic freedom, and the free and open exchange of ideas.” Just as important, apparently, is “tolerance.”

Examples of “intolerance” include:

* Depicting or articulating a view of ethnic or racial groups as less ambitious, less hardworking or talented, or more threatening than other groups.

* Depicting or articulating a view of people with disabilities (both visible and invisible) as incapable.

The policy condemns viewpoints without listening to the arguments, writes Volokh. “Faculty and students have a right not to hear it.”

Statements made in class or in a public forum are protected, but there’s no protection for a student newspaper, a student group’s web site, an e-mail exchange among acquaintances or a a lunch conversation in the cafeteria, writes Volokh.

Will students and untenured faculty feel free to discuss their views about disabilities, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex or religion? Not likely.

Calling America a "melting pot" could be a "microaggression," University of California professors were warned.

Calling America a “melting pot” could be a “microaggression,” University of California professors were warned.

A few months ago, UC professors were advised to avoid “microaggressions,” Volokh wrote earlier. These are “brief, subtle verbal or non-verbal exchanges that send denigrating messages to the recipient because of his or her group membership (such as race, gender, age or socio-economic status).” I call them “minor annoyances.”

Such microaggressions can create a “hostile learning environment,” according to UC and the federal government.

Among examples are speaking of color blindness, the “myth of meritocracy” or calling America a “melting pot.” These are ideas.

“Victimhood culture”  is big on campus, writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. He cites a sociologists’ analysis of the shift from “honor” and “dignity” culture.

. . . at Oberlin College, a talk held as part of Latino Heritage Month was scheduled on the same evening that intramural soccer games were held. . . .  “Hey, that talk looks pretty great,” a white student wrote to a Hispanic student, “but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!”

On a blog called Oberlin Microaggressions, the Latina blasted the sender for using “futbol” instead of “soccer.” She wrote: “White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok. Keep my heritage language out your mouth!”

Isn’t futbol an appropriation of football?

These people are loco.

Microaggressions from the majority to the minority are real and unavoidable, writes Megan McArdle on Bloomberg View. “A culture that tries to avoid them is setting up to tear itself apart.”

Once a right to be free from alienating comments is established, everyone will want it, including conservatives in very liberal institutions, she writes. “It’s microaggressions all the way down.”

Her advice: “Don’t be an ignorant jerk.”


UC plans to streamline transfers

Making it easier for community college students to transfer will expand opportunity and improve diversity at the University of California, argues a task force report.

Poor high school’s impact lasts

Top students at low-performing high schools earn low grades in collegeconcludes a new study. The University of Texas at Austin guarantees admission to the top 10 percent of students at every high school in the state as an alternative to race-based affirmative action.

. . .  the researchers did modeling on the performance of a female Hispanic student who enrolled at UT at the age of 18, has a mother with a high school diploma, and family income between $20,000 and $40,000. Such a student, graduating from a high-performing high school, would be predicted to earn a 3.21 grade-point average at UT. Such a student from a low-performing high school would be predicted to earn a 2.30 at UT.

That’s a huge difference. And students don’t catch up in sophomore or junior year, the study found.

Starting this fall, UT will accept students in the top 7 percent of their high school class.

The University of California guarantees admission to students in the top 4 percent of their high school class, if they’ve passed the required college-prep courses with a C or better.


Universities don’t seek socioeconomic diversity

Focused on race-based affirmative action, many public universities aren’t eager to recruit low-income students, reports the New York Times.

“It’s expensive,” said Donald E. Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. “You have to go out and identify them, recruit them and get them to apply, and then it’s really expensive once they enroll because they need more financial aid.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule soon on race-based admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. Many think affirmative action linked to race and ethnicity will be struck down.

Polls show that while most Americans oppose racial or ethnic preferences in college admissions, they also think colleges should give extra help to the poor.

Some states have already banned affirmative action, including California, Florida, Michigan and Washington, and in each of them, the selective public universities stepped up their efforts to recruit disadvantaged students, hoping to enroll more black, Hispanic and American Indian students in the process.

Even in states that have rejected racial preferences, flagship universities “vary widely in how hard they work to identify high-achieving, disadvantaged students and prepare them for college, how heavily they weight disadvantage in admissions, and how generous they are with financial aid,” reports the Times.

More than 40 percent of University of California students qualify for Pell Grants, which go to low- and moderate-income students. That includes 34 percent at Berkeley and 36 percent at UCLA.

At the University of Michigan, also highly selective and banned from considering race, only 16 percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants.

The private sector is less committed to affirmative action in hiring, adds the Times in another story.

“Tens of thousands of qualified low-income students, 30 percent of them racial minorities” don’t apply to elite colleges, according to research by Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby and Harvard’s Christopher Avery.  Colleges should recruit low-income high achievers, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in a Bloomberg commentary.

In a follow-up study, Hoxby and a colleague sent college information packets to a random selection of low-income high-achievers. Students who got the information were 80 percent more likely to apply to and gain admission to a selective college than similar students who didn’t get the packet. The mailings cost $6 per student.

Tuition-paying Chinese squeeze out Asian-Americans

Cash-strapped California are recruiting tuition-paying international and out-of-state students, leaving fewer places for Californians, reports Bloomberg News. Often that means Chinese students get in while high-achieving Asian-Americans, many of them the children of immigrants, do not.

Kwanhyun Park, the 18-year-old son of Korean immigrants, spent four years at Beverly Hills High School earning the straight As and high test scores he thought would get him into the University of California, San Diego. They weren’t enough.

In 2009, UC=San Diego cut its number of in-state freshmen by 500 to about 3,400 to make room for out-of-state and international students. California residents pay $13,234 in annual tuition while nonresidents pay $22,878.

The number of Chinese freshman soared from 16 to 200; the number of Asian-American Californians fell by 29 percent.

UC lecturers can block online classes

The University of California’s untenured lecturers are blocking online classes to protect their jobs, reports Inside Higher Ed.

University of California officials have suggested that the system will have to innovate out of the current financial crisis by expanding online programs. (State house analysts agree.) Instructors, meanwhile, are terrified that this is code for cutting their pay, or increasing their workloads, or outsourcing their jobs to interlopers, or replacing them with online teaching software.

Lecturers make up nearly half the undergraduate teaching corps. They fear — with good reason — that the classes they teach are the most likely to be moved online. Their union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, has negotiated a deal with UC that requires union approval for new online courses or programs that threaten lecturers’ jobs.  “We feel that we could stop almost any online program through this contract,” union president Bob Samuels told Inside Higher Ed.

Cutting academics, adding ‘diversity’ czars

The University of California’s budget has been “cut to the bone,” says a spokesman.  Campuses are cutting academic programs — but adding “diversity” functionaries, writes Heather Mac Donald in City Journal.

The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, earns $194,000 in base pay and has 17 people in his office. That could pay for a lot of assistant professors, who start at  $53,000, Mac Donald writes.

To save money, UC San Diego’s Academic Senate has cut master’s programs in electrical and computer engineering and comparative literature and dropped courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature.

At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.”

“Diversity” is “a code word for narcissism,” Mac Donald concludes.

Asian-Americans make up nearly half of UC-San Diego students (pdf); many major in math, science or engineering. Perhaps “me studies” has to be required because students are too busy taking academic courses in hopes of being able to pay back their student loans.

UC tuition is rising.


Certificates are path to success

On Community College Spotlight:  For many students, earning a vocational certificate “can be the most direct path to college completion and career success,” says a new report.

To save money, the University of California may expand online classes and encourage students to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years.

UC may offer all-online degree

University of California leaders want to offer an online bachelor’s degree comparable in quality to its prestigious campus programs, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We want to do a highly selective, fully online, credit-bearing program on a large scale – and that has not been done,” said UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley, who is leading the effort.

But a number of skeptical faculty members and graduate student instructors fear that a cyber UC would deflate the university’s five-star education into a fast-food equivalent, cheapening the brand. Similar complaints at the University of Illinois helped bring down that school’s ambitious Global Campus program last fall after just two years.

Tomorrow, UC regents  will hear about a pilot program of 25 to 40 courses, which will be developed if UC can raise $6 million from private donors. In the short term, the university needs alternatives to crowded writing and math classes. In the long term, Edley hopes to expand access to a UC education, collect more tuition money and spend less per student.

The model is Stanford University’s online graduate engineering degree, which is highly respected and open to students who never set foot in California.

“Within 30 minutes of a class being taught at Stanford, we’re able to offer it around the world,” said Andy DiPaolo, senior associate dean at the School of Engineering. “We think in many ways it’s comparable (in quality). “

Stanford uses the same admissions process and requirements for online and traditional degrees.

A Berkeley Faculty Association report knocked the online plan:

“The danger is not only degraded education, but centralized academic policy that undermines faculty control of academic standards and curriculum,” it said. “It is also likely that the whole thing will be a boondoggle.”

Furthermore, the report said, online instruction is “inappropriate for many subjects and types of learning.”

UC Online needs a “coalition of the willing,” Edley said, “not universal support.”

UC shouldn’t rush into cyber-education, write a coalition of unwilling professors in the Chronicle. Doing it well requires a lot of money — with no guarantee that the education will match the “face-to-face dialogue that is the hallmark of university education.”

UC’s online efforts should focus on serving California students who hope to transfer to the university, not on marketing the “UC Brand” across the globe, the professors argue. A global UC “would require outsourcing teaching to part-timers who are not researchers, resulting in a decline in quality for those students who are our primary responsibility.”

Furthermore, “simply to extract bits of teaching and put them online out of context would sever the links between teaching and research that make UC special.”