Too Asian for SFU?

This article was published January 2011 by The Peak.

When you applied for university, did you think, “Those damn Asians, always pushing up the admissions average.” Did you feel as if you were competing specifically against Asians, or that Asians were in the way of your enrollment? Of course not. You competed against the average, a collective standard, and you studied for a sense of self-worth and achievement (I hope).

But in the Maclean’s article, “Too Asian?” (the title has since been changed to “The enrollment controversy”), the InvAsian of Canadian universities is exactly what the white postsecondary applicants are afraid of. Maybe Asians are responsible for inflating admissions averages, maybe not. But when you fingerpoint and blame other ethnicities for hardships like (gasp!) having to study, then that’s racism.

A friend of mine said I shouldn’t be so offended because the journalists were only doing their job, which sometimes includes reporting on truths and facts that we may not like. But if the article can be taken as an accurate representation of Canadian issues, then why did they only interview white people who were clearly against having large numbers of Asians in universities? Maclean’s went so far as to include a quote about a white mother who said that Asians are “the reason her son didn’t get a space in university and that all the immigrants in the country are taking up university spots.” Unless the goal is to write an article about racist white people, it goes without saying that comments like these should not be seriously entertained in any national discussion, and putting this woman’s opinion in quotation marks (a technique used to indicate journalistic objectivity) does not change the fact that the writers made a conscious decision to publish and therefore to perpetuate her comment. Why did they not interview non-racist Caucasians, or report on stories of inter-racial, on-campus collaboration? Doesn’t this also stereotype and therefore harm white people when you portray them as anti-Asian? How can the article claim to be objective? If I wanted stereotypes I’d watch South Park, but I expect my national newsmakers to do better.

The same friend argued that the only racist part of the article was its title (“Too Asian?”), and now that it’s been changed, everything’s okay, right? Well what do you think the rest of the article is about? Sensationalism is okay when you’re hyping the next movie that Jake Gyllenhaal will be naked in, but it’s not acceptable to cast negative stereotypes on entire ethnicities in order to sell a few more magazines (it’s called yellow journalism, guys). Yes, there are threads of truth around every stereotype, but like good journalistic practices that are balanced and investigative, we have to look beyond these one-dimensional portrayals in order to get at the whole. And on the whole, my white friends don’t think of me as a socially phobic, robot student who works too disproportionately hard for grades that are too high (it’s not like we’re students in university or anything). And in return, I don’t think my white friends are all Aritzia shoppers who are concerned only about partying and alcohol. I’m sure my white friends don’t think that coloured people are out to take over the university whenever they’re ethnically outnumbered in a class. If that’s how my Caucasian friends and I thought of one another then we wouldn’t be getting along. In other words, ideas that cultivate an Us against Them mentality are anti-multicultural, and that is the inherent harm of the Maclean’s article, whose ideas serve to perpetuate an ethnic wedge.

So is SFU too Asian? Do you think it’d be a better school if you heard less Mandarin in the hallways? Did I “take the spot” of a Caucasian Canadian when I enrolled at SFU? ARE ASIANS TAKING OVER?? By all means, please do talk about race and multiculturalism. But next time let’s actually make progress by not asking such stupid questions.

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One Response to Too Asian for SFU?

  1. Trish says:

    I can honestly say that I didn’t bother applying to certain schools for this reason. But I feel like this is best talked about over coffee at c-stone renaissance, holla if you wanna debate over chai latte!

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