Segments in this Video

Affirmative Action, Asian Americans, and College Admissions (02:52)


Moderator John Donvan outlines the debate topic and introduces panelists. Asian American Coalition for Education Co-Founder Lee Cheng and Asian Americans Advancing Justice President and Executive Director John Yang state their positions.

Supporting Affirmative Action (04:22)

Cheng agrees with the concept of affirmative action, but its implementation has become a corrupt travesty. Race-based, determinative affirmative action is unfair to any American who is discriminated against in its name.

Opposing Affirmative Action (05:16)

Courts have determined there is no evidence of discrimination against Asian Americans in the Harvard case; statistics suggest otherwise. Systems like affirmative action are about valuing a person as a whole. Yang states that if scores are the focus, colleges somehow need to make a distinction.

Qualified Students (10:18)

Yang states there is no evidence that colleges are excluding Asian Americans because of race. Chang counters that admissions programs mask discrimination; he cites Harvard's personality criteria. Panelists debate the personal score, evidence of cap and quota, and statistics.

Racial Animus (06:38)

Donvan references Harvard's position on Jewish students. Cheng provides examples of racial animus towards Asian Americans; Harvard's actions incite hatred and violence. Yang counters that evidence does not support racial animus and discusses using a tip. Cheng states that race is a determinative factor.

Panelist Autobiographies (04:54)

Yang and Cheng discusses what inspires each of them to argue the side they have chosen for this debate. Donvan takes a break in the middle of the conversation.

College Admissions System (03:55)

Cheng believes a system must have transparency, list all criteria, and numericize everything; Harvard aggregates the rich. He objects to the weight that Harvard gives to race.

Higher Score Requirements (02:48)

Yang states that if GPA and test scores are the only determinants for admission, he would challenge the system. Admissions should consider more than applicant test scores.

Diversity (04:17)

Cheng believes diversity has become a proxy for race and gender. He supports diversity in a holistic assessment; it is racist when used as a proxy and over-weighted. Yang counters that diversity has not been corrupted and we need to do more; communities of color are still lagging.

Closing Statements (04:25)

Cheng states that race-based affirmative action was intended to be temporary. We need to rethink our approach and not make race so central to our lives. Yang states that race does matter, but there are other issues to discuss if we want to talk about equity.

Intelligence Squared (01:32)

Donvan thanks listeners, encourages continued funding of the program, and cites the names of key individuals. IQ2 works to combat extreme polarization through civil discourse.

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Is Affirmative Action Unfair to Asian Americans?: A Debate

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For more than 50 years, Americans have debated the policy of affirmative action. Defenders argue that it promotes diversity in education and the workplace, provides opportunity for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and helps account for generations of discrimination against certain historically oppressed or marginalized groups. Critics, however, argue that it promotes "reverse" discrimination based on race or ethnicity, treats Americans as members of groups rather than as individuals, and violates the U.S. Constitution. In the latest controversy over affirmative action, Students for Fair Admissions, an organization that opposes the policy, has sued both Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (UNC), charging that the two institutions of higher learning discriminate against Asian Americans in favor of white, Black, and Latino applicants. Harvard and UNC deny these charges, and the case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Is affirmative action unfair to Asian Americans? Audio only.

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL284218

Copyright date: ©2022

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