Monday, August 20, 2018

Letter from an Ivy League Prof.

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              Wise Words From an AsAm Ivy League Professor 
    These are words that AsAm students in high schools and undergraduate colleges may really benefit from.   See the particular sentences, shown in red. The emphasis is added.   BTW, I don't know this professor.
"Dear Dr. Woo,

I read your recent newsletters on the topic with great interest. I applaud your efforts in bringing greater awareness to these issues.  I'm a tenured faculty at one of these elite universities mentioned in your newsletters.....

What you're perhaps unaware of is that the discrimination Asian undergraduates face pervades all levels of the academia.  In fact, it's worse for graduate admissions --- I know it for a fact because I'm the graduate admissions chair in my department. And it's not limited to students; in my opinion, the higher up it gets, the more severe the discrimination.

In matters of hiring, tenure, promotion, appointment to endowed chairs, selection for leadership positions, etc, Asian faculty are consistently side-lined and face steep odds compared to colleagues who are white or other politically-connected minorities. In an interview in the Chinese media many years ago, an eminent professor in my field said that he had to work 150% as hard as his white colleagues to achieve the same level of recognition. Back then I was just a student but over the years I've increasingly found his assertion to resonate with my own experience.

I'm disappointed that the news media tends to go after politicians and celebrities who blurt out mild racial slurs in public, ......

What really matters is that 50% gap: accomplishments of Asian faculty and students are routinely discounted and those of their white compatriots routinely inflated. For college admission, the gap is attributed to "personality" but it's just part of a much larger problem that exists at other levels in the academia, and presumably in other professions as well. Focusing on just a tiny aspect of this problem in the context of college admission is missing the forest for the trees --- even if those Asian applicants do get into Harvard, they are still going to have to deal with such discrimination at every step in their future careers.

This 50% gap is what needs to be eliminated for a fairer America, and it is much trickier than simply calling out somebody for using racial epithets. My white colleagues will never be caught with an outright display of even the slightest tinge of racist behavior; they probably won't even consciously discriminate against somebody for racial reasons --- they are simply too well-educated for such antics. But when decisions are taken collectively in a white-majority department, the result is all the same --- better qualified Asians candidates consistently get passed over for relatively mediocre white candidates.

I'm writing under a pseudonym but if you ever want to tackle this larger issue instead of focusing on college admission, I would be pleased to lend my support.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email.        Sincerely,   Louis"

                               My Reply to This professor

"Dear Louis:
    Even my family members attending high schools and undergraduate programs think that I was exaggerating the discrimination situation, because they got into the schools/colleges they preferred.  Therefore, they don't sense discrimination.  I told them, "Wait till salary, upward mobility, and promotion are the important considerations of your colleagues.  In addition, wait till you get to you 40s when most of your colleague may possibly know how to manipulate the intangibles e.g. personal chemistry and personality against you.    SB"
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S. B. Woo 

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