Controversy Over Article on Asians at Canadian Universities

November 12, 2010

Maclean's is facing considerable criticism for an article suggesting that some top (white) Canadian students are avoiding certain universities for fear that they are "too Asian." The article relies on quotations from anonymous white students saying things like: "The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian. All the white kids go to Queen’s, Western and McGill." (U of T refers to the University of Toronto, by any measure a top Canadian university.) The article also features some quotes from Asian students, who report on experiences such as this one at the University of British Columbia: “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,"

The article suggests that "the dilemma is this: Canadian institutions operate as pure meritocracies when it comes to admissions, and admirably so. Privately, however, many in the education community worry that universities risk becoming too skewed one way, changing campus life -- a debate that’s been more or less out in the open in the U.S. for years but remains muted here. And that puts Canadian universities in a quandary. If they openly address the issue of race they expose themselves to criticisms that they are profiling and committing an injustice. If they don’t, Canada’s universities, far from the cultural mosaics they’re supposed to be -- oases of dialogue, mutual understanding and diversity -- risk becoming places of many solitudes, deserts of non-communication. It’s a tough question to have to think about."

Many reader comments -- and some outside critics -- say that the article is promoting racist stereotypes, while others say that the article is bringing attention to an issue that needs public discussion. The (New York City-based) blog Jezebel ran a commentary on the article with the headline: "Yes, Calling a School 'Too Asian' Is Racist."

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