Discussing the role that race plays in the self-selecting communities that more and more characterize university campuses makes many people uncomfortable. Still, an "Asian" school has come to mean one that is so academically focused that some students feel they can no longer compete or have fun. Indeed, Rachel, Alexandra and her brother belong to a growing cohort of student that's eschewing some big-name schools over perceptions that they're "too Asian." It's a term being used in some U.S. academic circles to describe a phenomenon that's become such a cause for concern to university admissions officers and high school guidance counsellors that several elite universities to the south have faced scandals in recent years over limiting Asian applicants and keeping the numbers of white students artificially high.Like I said, sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? A couple of years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on a similar trend happening at high schools in Cupertino, California, where white students were transferring to less competitive schools with fewer Asian students.
Although university administrators here are loath to discuss the issue, students talk about it all the time. "Too Asian" is not about racism, say students like Alexandra: many white students simply believe that competing with Asians - both Asian Canadians and international students - requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they're not willing to make. They complain that they can't compete for spots in the best schools and can't party as much as they'd like (too bad for them, most will say). Asian kids, meanwhile, say they are resented for taking the spots of white kids. "At graduation a Canadian - i.e. 'white' - mother told me that I'm the reason her son didn't get a space in university and that all the immigrants in the country are taking up university spots," says Frankie Mao, a 22-year-old arts student at the University of British Columbia. "I knew it was wrong, being generalized in this category," says Mao, "but f–k, I worked hard for it."
It's an interesting read, though I find myself completely annoyed by the part that makes Asian students sound like joyless, socially-isolated, singularly-focused drones under the command of overbearing immigrant parents. Not to say that there aren't Asian students like this, but there's definitely an underlying current of fear and concern in this ridiculous too-many-Asians anxiety.
Just how many Asians are "too many" Asians? It always seems like when you've got a lot of Asians gathered in one place, somebody finds this disruptive to their existence. In the case of this white flight, it's Canadian college students. Granted, the article also makes white students sound like a bunch of lazy-asses. Too competitive? Psshh. You need to put down that Jager shot, pick up a book, and suck it up.
UPDATE: The 'Too Asian' article appears to have been mysteriously removed ("Page Not Found"). However, the MacLean's website site sidebar indicates that the story is currently the number one Most Read article. How odd. But that's okay, because you can still read the text of the article here. (Thanks, Chris.)
UPDATE: The article is back, but it's apparently been heavily edited. Again, I refer you to the archived version of the original article here.