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The Continued Balkanization of College Campuses?

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that beginning this year, the University of California system will allow Asian and Asian-American applicants to indicate their ethnicity. But like at all UCs, race/ethnicity will only be used for reporting purposes and not play a role in the admissions process.

Currently, University of California admissions applications (and the data that come from them) have eight categories for Asians Americans: Chinese, East Indian/Pakistani, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Pacific Islander, Vietnamese and other Asian.

The new system will have groups of categories for Asian Americans and for Pacific Islanders. For the former, the categories woulds be: Chinese (except Taiwanese), Taiwanese, Asian Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and other Asian. For the latter, the categories will be Native Hawaiian, Guamanian/Chamorro, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and other Pacific Islander.

It's a good idea, but only if it is extended to all other races and ethnicities, and only if it is used for reporting purposes. It can especially help to shed light on the fact that for too long, whites and blacks of different ethnicities and backgrounds have been masked by a simple "black" or "white" label, hiding the true diversity that exists across all colors of people. A fourth-generation Polish-Catholic student from Buffalo shares just as little in common with a third generation Chinese-American living in California as he does with an Ashkenazi Jew from New Jersey. Yet, all of the statistics reported on diversity by colleges will only report on differences between whites and non-whites.

Only then might we begin to realize that affirmative action shouldn't be a raced-based program, but rather a program based on class, income, and family background.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on November 20, 2007 (#)

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