Some Asians’ college strategy: Don’t check ‘Asian’

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

For those with only one Asian parent, whose names don’t give away their heritage, that decision can be relatively easy. Harder are the questions that it raises: What’s behind the admissions difficulties? What, exactly, is an Asian-American — and is being one a choice?

Read the rest of the article and interviews by Yale students here:

Meet your new APA Blog editor!

Congratulations to Lia Dun, CC 2014, the 2012 editor-in-chief of the APA Blog!

And here is the new AASA board for the 2012 calendar year:

  • Co-moderators, Stella Cao and Ysabel Ilagan
  • Political Action and Education Committee (PAEC) Co-chairs, Chris Marnell and Winnie Huang
  • Community Development Chairs, Andrew Chun and Jason Kuo
  • Secretary, Connie Lu
  • Treasurer, Cynthia Chan
  • Webmaster, Lijin Chen

Call for Applications – Board Positions for AASA

Are you interested in Asian American social and political issues? What about organizing pan-Asian events? If so, consider running for a board position on the Asian American Students Alliance for the 2012 calendar year!

Some tentative events being planned for next term include:

  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
  • Pan-Asian Extravaganza
  • Mentorship Program Panels with Asian American Graduate Students

If any of these projects interest you, or if you have any ideas for projects that benefit the entire Asian American community, we highly encourage you to run (2 positions max)!

Expectations on board:

In addition to baseline responsibilities for the position you run for, you will be expected to develop and execute your own project(s) as well as contribute to other board members’ projects. These projects are expected to benefit the entire Asian American community through promoting awareness/education or community-building. Guidance and feedback will be provided by Moderators. Good teamwork and communication skills are necessary. If you wish to run but do not know which roles you may be interested in, we will suggest a role for you during our mandatory pre-election information session. More information can be found at

Benefits to you:

You will learn a great deal about issues relevant to Asian Americans today. In addition, you will learn leadership and logistical skills that will be vital for your career at Yale and beyond. You will develop a network of peers who share similar interests and meet mentors who will guide you and help you grow.

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Are you interested in meeting a Yalie in the Asian American community? Do you want to have an exhilarating chat over a cup of coffee? Do you love froyo, mochi, and everything in between? The AACC wants to give you the opportunity to meet new people over a delightful snack!

Email with your name, email address, college, and year, and we’ll pair you randomly for a chat with another student. You will receive an email in the next couple of weeks about the person you have been paired with for AACC Serendipity. Once you have set up a time to meet, you will contact the AACC, and additional information will be provided on how to claim your free gift certificate.

AACC Serendipity will be happening throughout the semester, so anytime you want to meet a new face, all you have to do is send your contact info!

Addressing Taste

This op-ed appeared in the YDN today, criticizing the Yale Intercultural Affairs Council for putting up table tents discouraging “’demeaning costumes and parties’” during Halloween.  The writer, Zelinsky, argues that by using “the language of multiculturalism,” groups “quietly encourages members to conform to standards of decency” and asserts that “[a] Yale College in which students enforce their own conception of civility, rather than have it imposed from a higher authority, will be far more effective in creating the welcoming environment we know this place to be.”

What bothers me most is that Zelinsky assumes the most people know what is offensive and what isn’t, what is racist and what isn’t, and that people like the members of the IAC are drawing too much attention to a tasteless minority that doesn’t know what’s inappropriate—that people, especially Yale students, have the good taste to know that, as Zelinsky puts it “it’s generally bad to belittle others.”

Putting aside the Halloween costume issue, I can think of a couple of examples when the Asian American and Yale community at large didn’t seem to recognize when things were getting “distasteful.”

  1. Amy Chua: The woman made sweeping generalizations about what it meant to be a “Chinese” parent and the children of Asian and Asian Americans in generals, and for the most part, we in the Yale community didn’t even stop to question whether or not she was reinforcing stereotypes about an extremely diverse group in the United States population and supported preconceptions that Asians and Asian Americans are an exotic other whose parenting methods and general way of being are completely foreign to the “Western.”  Instead, all we did was debate whether or not “Chinese” parenting created successful children or mindless drones with no social skills.
  2. The Asian Playboy: His thesis was that Asian men are nerds with low self-esteem; therefore, it’s okay to pursue and objectify women, particularly white women because they’re the best, so that they can feel better about themselves.  You’d think bringing someone like that would have caused a bit more of an uproar on a campus like Yale that has a reputation for being extremely liberal—except it didn’t.  I know there were a lot of Asian guys who agreed that they had a hard time with girls but there seemed to be no questioning why this was so besides that Asian cultures make Asian American males nerds.

In these two situations, I think the Asian American community would have benefitted with someone voicing the opinion that perhaps not all our mothers are the stereotypical Tiger Moms and that not all our males are inherently undesirable.  Because as much as we like to pretend we live in a post-racial society, how many can tell me that on some level they don’t take the idea Tiger Moms and the notion that Asian American boys are innately unattractive at face value?

I think that all people are capable of making decisions that aren’t hurtful or offensive to others, but we need help and that’s the task of organizations like the Intercultural Affairs Council and Yale’s cultural groups.  A person’s sense of “taste,” after all, isn’t necessarily innate but needs to be cultivated.

Bulldog Buzz week of 9/7 — Asian eyes, hot sauce, & writing for the blog

Trend Alert: While Asian women are scrambling to get double-eyelid surgery for a more Westernized aesthetic, in the world of high fashion, Dolce & Gabbana models tape their eyes back for a stereotypical Asian look in this Vogue Japan editorial. Is this cool/avant-garde or just offensive?

Confessions of a Sriracha Fanatic: A foodie recounts her introduction and addiction to the beloved Thai-American hot sauce in this NPR article. Recipes at the end for those with more culinary sophistication; the rest of us will just continue to indiscriminately put Sriracha on all the things.

Did you see us at the Activities Fair or the AASA General Assembly this past week? Are you interested in writing for, promoting, or otherwise getting involved with the APA Blog? Drop us a line at and we’ll keep you posted.

Alternatively, are you a member of an Asian-American interest organization on campus? AASA member group or otherwise, we welcome all contributors to use the blog as a place to spread the word about your cause, advertise events, or reach out to the general public.

Bulldog Buzz week of 8/31 — Shopping Period Edition

Got an extra spot on your schedule? Interested in Asian-American topics or just looking for a fun class? Check out these gems on OCS:

HIST 183: Asian American History, 1800 to the Present
A new perspective. Taught by Professor Mary Lui, this class introduces some of the key topics in Asian-American history that were probably skimmed over in your other more “mainstream” American history classes. A variety of Asian cultures are covered, for a rich and eye-opening course.

HIST 166J: Asian American Women and Gender, 1830 to the Present
Not just for Asian women. Also taught my Lui, this junior history seminar (sorry non-majors!) explores the challenges and accomplishments of Asian American women, providing a cultural and sociological perspective on a little-discussed topic.

AMST 322: Gender, Family and Cultural Identity in Asia and the United States
Bridge the culture gap. WGSS department lecturer and international feminism expert Geetanjali Chanda teaches this class on identity formation in different Asian countries and U.S. perceptions of Asian culture. It will change the way you think.

ENGL 339: American Literary Nationalisms
The bookish type. With African American Studies Professor GerShun Avilez, read works that highlight the influence of nationalist frameworks on modern American literature. Includes not just Asian American nationalism but also the Black Arts Movement and feminist and queer organizing, among others.

AMST 695: Craft in Colonial and Independent India
Trip to the museum. This graduate-level seminar looks at South Indian craft-making, from textiles to metalwork. Professor of American Decorative Arts Edward Cooke introduces both historical and contemporary contexts for the craftsmen’s work, and relates them to prominent cultural issues in India.

A Day in the Life…

Calling all Prefrosh! My name is Matthew Tran and I am a freshman in Davenport, which is obviously the best residential college on campus. YDN says so. Even look at freshman Olympics last weekend. What better way to end Freshman Olympics than to OWN EVERY OTHER COLLEGE AND TO TOTALLY HUMILIATE PIERSON BY STEALING THEIR FLAG (we got DQed, but that’s I could go on). Oh I’m sorry you wanted to know about my life? Sorry I thought it was time for FACTS. Davenport greatness aside let me welcome you child-ren into a(n) (a)typical day of a Yalie.

7:00 A.M. Waking up in the morning… I go back to sleep

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Doors of Old Campus

In the conference room where my lab has our weekly meetings (Mason 321 what up), there’s a poster called “Doors of Yale” with pictures of a dozen or so different doors, gates, and entryways, showcasing the rich variety of architecture on campus. It’s not the most well-designed poster, but I really liked the concept. So this morning, I decided to go out and do a little photo shoot of my own, focusing specifically on Old Campus, since it is home to 83% of Yale freshmen.

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Aside from the Oscars, co-hosted by James Franco (wouldn’t you hate to be working with that guy on a big project due on Monday?) and “that annoying girl” Anne Hathaway (my mother’s words; I’m rather fond of her), Yale also had the honor of playing host to renowned Japanese filmmaker Koreeda Hirokazu. I had been a fan of his ever since I saw the critically acclaimed 誰も知らない or Nobody Knows (2004), which a friend had recommended to me as being the most depressing movie she’s ever seen. And indeed, it was heartbreaking, but it was also a beautiful piece of work, subtle and poignant as a lot of the best in Japanese cinema can be.

I wasn’t able to attend the two workshops that were held over the weekend, but I did manage to catch a screening of Koreeda’s latest? work, Still Walking (2008). A narration over the course of roughly a day, the film is an in-depth portrait of a middle-class Japanese family, coming together in a clash of personalities while sharing an in an important common bond. Through the voice of older son, Koreeda tries to convey that family life is to be cherished and nourished. Beautiful and moving, the film certainly succeeded in invoking these sentiments.* I don’t think anything that I can write could do it justice, so maybe you should just check it out for yourself.

I could go on and on about East Asian/Southeast Asian cinema (Bollywood is a different genre altogether), but perhaps I’ll just leave you with this: Yes, there’s been a lot of film screenings this year—I don’t know when all the organizations started popping up/why they all decided to let us watch free movies—but I’m certainly not complaining. They’re really worth checking out if you can spare 2 hours of your regularly scheduled Hulu-watching. And I’m always open to movie (and drama!) recommendations, so drop a line if you’ve got something that everyone needs to see.**

* Actually, I was reminded of Tokyo Sonata (2008), another Japanese film that I had watched recently that also explores the Japanese family but with a slightly higher focus on the struggle of individual personalities to shine through in Japan’s familial structure and roles. It actually made me really angry for a good three-quarters of the film, but the mood it manages evokes modern-day Japanese society so poignantly that it’s hard not to look back on it fondly. Also worth a watch.

** Despite the content of this post humor is actually preferred! Not that I really understand absurdist Japanese humor (but so many puns ♥)…