Little Asia on the hill

I went to Berkeley for a year and a half, so Timothy Egan’s Sunday’s NY Times Education Life cover story about the increased population of Asians on campus in the post-affirmative action was a must read. I thought I would have a much stronger reaction to it than I did. When I was a freshman at UCLA, the most shocking thing for me was the high level of self segregation on campus. I could not believe the number of ethnic clubs and organizations on campus and the fact that many of them actually received university funding. (People, people, you could be funding arts organizations, club sports, science clubs, internship opportunities, but please, please, not the Chinese Republicans. I do not ask you for a middle-class white boys organization.) I remember receiving an invitation to rush an Asian fraternity in the mail before I even moved into the dorms. The person who sent it received a harsh, harsh reply from me. Unfortunately, the most interesting thing about Egan’s story is the odd way in which he inserts himself, in the first person, into a story that really doesn’t require his presence:

He dashes off to class, and I wander through the serene setting of Memorial Glade, in the center of campus, and then loop over to Sproul Plaza, the beating heart of the university, where dozens of tables are set up by clubs representing every conceivable ethnic group. Out of nowhere, an a cappella group, mostly Asian men, appears and starts singing a Beach Boys song. Yes, tradition still matters in California.


  1. evicious

    Maybe the long discussion we had at Maxine’s about said article dampened your actual reaction after reading the piece. I think Egan did a fair job portraying the situation in universities. But I wish he talked more about the root of the problem: why aren’t more Latinos and blacks getting into universities? The problem isn’t that too many Asians are getting in. And changing university admissions policies won’t fix the problem. Black and Latino children have less access to good public schools. Compared to Asians they may receive less community support when it comes to doing well in school. How will limiting the Asian population at universities solve these problems?

    On a separate note, I have no problem with universities funding ethnic clubs, although I wouldn’t participate in them myself. At Berkeley, there were a lot of Asian clubs, which I thought was pointless since the campus had so many Asian students as it is. But would you oppose to a student association for blacks? Why shouldn’t people have different ways of finding their ethnic identity?

  2. Rick

    I think part of the issue here is that he writes an entire article on race without admitting the possibility that it’s simply a mask for economic status. I think at one point he admits that the people going to college are coming from wealthier and wealthier families. Because certain groups have made little progress on the income scale over the past 15 years, their populations in higher education have stagnated.

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