Monday, July 25, 2005


LaShawn Barber has gone after Affirmative Action again. And, boy, is she steamed. This is my two cents worth on the subject…

There is an elephant in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about: some minorities are more “minority” than others.

However, first a disclosure: I graduated from Cal in 1975. And I’m white.

At the University of California, Berkeley—flagship school of the University of California system—Asians make up 32% of the freshman class admitted last year. According to Model Minority ( “Asian-American students are less likely to be admitted into the University of California than students from other racial groups with comparable academic qualifications, according to a UC study released yesterday.Additionally, African-American and Latino students are more likely to be admitted than students from other ethnic groups, when most other factors are considered equal, the study said.”

According to information on the State of California website, in 2003 Asians made up only 10.87% of the population of the State. Whites were the next largest number: 47.44%. Hispanics were third at 32.44%. Blacks were 6.53%. Native Americans were 0.54% and Pacific Islanders were 0.32%--less than those who identified themselves as “Multiracial”—1.86%.

This means, of course, that Asians are overrepresented at U.C. Berkeley, according to their percentage of the population.

Unfortunately, the breakdown does not include gender as well as ethnicity. Too bad—it would be interesting to see if white males are, in fact, underrepresented at U.C. Berkeley, based strictly on percentage of population, which is just what those who favor Affirmative Action claim to want.

So advocates of Affirmative Action now change their tune: they want to increase the admission rate of underrepresented minorities, not merely all minorities. What they do not say is that qualified students of Asian backgrounds will be excluded, as well as “just” qualified white students.

The University of California has 10 undergraduate schools. Minority admissions overall have, in fact, increased, just not at Berkeley— the flagship school and the standard-bearer for all that is liberal. The U.C. system has committed to accepting students in the top 3-4% from all California high schools and the system does, just not to Berkeley or U.C.L.A. But Affirmative Action advocates are not concerned with the racial balance in the other 9 campuses. They suffer from a peculiar myopia, focused on Berkeley, and do not consider if Berkeley is even the best fit for a particular student. Is it wrong to have an elite school for elite brains? Is it wrong to redirect students who may need more nurturing to a smaller campus, where seats in lecture halls don’t number in the hundreds? Where tests and sections are run by professors and not T.A.s?

Sometimes I have the feeling that advocates for Affirmative Action are all about the numbers and are not interested in the people behind those numbers. If they were, they’d be more concerned with graduation rates rather than simply admission.

(H/T: The Anchoress)