Media Neglects Asian Students In Trump DOJ Affirmative Action Memo Coverage

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter
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A majority of media outlets did not mention that Asian American students might be more negatively affected by affirmative action policies than white students when reporting on the Department of Justice memo about race-based admission policies Wednesday.

The Trump administration is investigating and will potentially sue over affirmative action policies in colleges, according to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times. The memo asked DOJ lawyers if they would be willing to investigate “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” 

The NYT and other media outlets trumped up the idea that this move was geared toward helping white applicants at the expense of minority students, although Asian Americans are likely to be harder hit. Outlets including CNN, The Hill and The New York Daily News ignored this point entirely or barely mentioned how the revision might disproportionately affect Asian American students.

One 2009 study from the National Study of College Experience reveals that affirmative actions policies might hinder Asian-American students during the college application process. Asian-American students usually have to score higher on their SATs compared to their black, white or Latin counterparts in order to be seen on the same playing field, according to the study. Other statistics have revealed that despite a growing number of Asian-American applicants to Ivy League colleges, the percent of Asian students at the schools has not grown. Should affirmative action policies be stopped, white student enrollment rates would probably remain the same, while Asian-American acceptance rates would more than likely shoot up, another study showed.

The Washington Post emphasized how the White House would be looking to help white students, but buried a mention of the potentially negative affect it would have on Asian American students at the bottom of the report.

“But critics of affirmative action say the high court’s rulings have left an opening to challenge race-conscious policies, and cases are pending against Harvard and the University of North Carolina,” the reporters noted. “Both cases allege that race-conscious admissions policies result in discrimination against Asian American applicants.”

The lede of the Hill piece on the issue said the DOJ would be examining policies that are “deemed discriminatory to white applicants” but neglected to mention that Asian-Americans potentially suffer from affirmative actions policies. USA Today also started off their piece by saying the White House was examining policies they thought hurt white people, and buried a quote from a civil rights official halfway through the piece on how affirmative action affects Asians.

Both CNN and The New York Daily News began their pieces by saying that the administration would be looking to examine the ways white students are hurt from affirmative action and how they can be protected from it. Neither piece mentioned anything about how Asians are affected by affirmative action.

Asian groups have expressed frustration about the way affirmative action affects their community.

“Primarily, [admissions] should be merit-based because a college is an educational institution,” the president of the Asian American Coalition of Education, YuKong Zhao, told the Atlantic. “In our view, the fundamental way to improve [disadvantaged students’] education conditions, the fundamental way to improve diversity, is really through improving the K-12 education in [those] disadvantaged communities.”

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