SPECIAL REPORT Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs
In January of 1998, President Rodin convened this Committee (APASAC) to "consider the issues unique to Asian/Pacific American students' at Penn and to develop specific and concrete recommendations to resolve them." The decision to appoint the APASAC followed discussions within the Pluralism Committee of University Council. The Pluralism Committee of 1996-97 recommended that the issues unique to Asian/Pacific American (APA) students "be dealt with at the highest administrative levels," and suggested that a "subcommittee ... be appointed to gather more information and a report" and that "Asian American faculty and staff be consulted and approached for their input on these issues."
The Pluralism Committee report identified several issues and concerns. Students reported concerns about a "lack of any visible signs of an institutional presence in the form of Asian American faculty or administrators." Students also described their need for academic, career and personal advice and counseling that is based on an understanding of potentially unique pressures faced by Asian American students. They asked for an expansion of the newly formed Asian American Studies Program. Finally, they expressed concerns about, and interest in, the ways that the University recruits and admits APA students.
APASAC met five times over the Spring Semester of 1998 to gather information relevant to these issues and to suggest the next steps that the University might take in recognition of the increased representation of APA students on campus and the new scholarship in Asian American Studies.
APASAC agrees that we should not confuse the issues faced by Asian/Pacific students from countries other than the United States with those faced by Asian/Pacific Americans. In considering the information to be collected and the issues to be addressed, APASAC discussed the meaning of the term "Asian/Pacific American." While it is rather straightforward to classify as APA those students who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents who also self-identify as "Asian American,"--the classification of faculty and staff is less obvious. Many faculty and staff who identify themselves as APA migrated to the United States, some after they completed college or graduate school. While APA faculty and staff who attended college or secondary school in the United States have personal experiences that are closer to those of Penn's APA students than the personal experiences of those educated abroad, there are both practical and conceptual problems with such a restricted definition of APA faculty and staff. First, the data on country of education are not easily available. Second, a large proportion of APAs, who are in the age groups from which we have drawn our faculty and staff, were educated abroad. Nationally, two-thirds of APAs were born in foreign countries, including 73% of Korean Americans, 69% of Chinese Americans, and 79% of Asian Americans from the ethnic groups of Southeast Asia.1
APASAC is also aware that while APAs are a racial minority group in the United States, APAs differ from other racial minority groups on campus in that they are not "underrepresented2". A racial minority group is defined as "underrepresented" if its representation in higher education in general, or at Penn in particular, is less than its representation among the U.S. population of college age. At several points in our discussions, we recognized that the distinction between minority group status and underrepresented minority group status warrants some differences in approaches to providing student services.
The remainder of the report is divided into four sections. In the first section, we describe APA representation among students, faculty, and administrators in areas related to student services. The section also considers data on recruitment and retention of APA students. The second section considers the role of the Asian American Studies Program in addressing the intellectual and scholarly interests of students and faculty of all race and ethnic groups. Section three reports information that we were able to gather on the student life and student services issues for APA students. In the final section, we summarize our recommendations with respect to each of these topics.
In this section, we review data that we collected on APA representation among students, administrators, and faculty. We also report data on retention and graduation for APA undergraduates.
There has been rapid growth in the representation of Asian students in the undergraduate student body. Over a five-year time span (between the Fall of 1986 and the Fall of 1991), the proportion of Asians increased from 10% of the entering Freshman class to 22% and has varied between 21 and 23% in the five following years.
Figure 1 shows the APA 3 proportion of applicants, accepted students, and matriculating students in the entering freshman class from the Fall of 1990 through the Fall of 1997. APA students are 18 to 19% of the entering classes since 1993. APA students represent a consistently larger share of admitted students than they are of matriculating students and a larger share of applicants than they are of admitted students since the Fall of 1995. APASAC is concerned about these differences. The committee is concerned that the University is less successful in recruiting the APA students who are admitted and that recent APA applicants are less likely than other applicants to be admitted to Penn. we also note that the difference in admission rates for APA students relative to all students is growing.
Several explanations have been suggested for the recent relative decline in admissions rates for Asian Americans. To the extent that APA applicants are underrepresented in "alumni pools" or in "athletic pools", their admissions rates would be decreased. There is also evidence that APA applications are more concentrated in some of the programs that have lower admissions rates for all students, such as the Management and Technology program.
APASAC recommends that a study analyze the recent lower admissions probabilities for Asian American applicants to assure that there is no part of the admissions process that inappropriately eliminates these students from acceptance. The study should also examine the reasons for the lower rate at which APA students who are accepted ultimately decide to matriculate at Penn.
Figure 2 shows the ethnicity of APA undergraduates at Penn relative to the ethnicity of the APA national population. Each of these ethnic groups is at least as represented within the Penn student body as they are in the U.S. population. Penn students include relatively more Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, and South Asian (Indian) Americans, however, and relatively fewer Japanese Americans, Pacific Islanders, Filipino Americans, and Southeast Asian Americans than the national population. Many of these ethnic distribution differences arise from the ethnic composition of the geographic areas which send more students to Penn. For example, South Asian Americans are more likely to reside east of the Mississippi River, while 75% of the nation's Pacific Islanders reside in Hawaii and California and 70% of Filipino Americans reside in Hawaii, California and Washington. Also, there are differences across these ethnic groups in the proportion who are of college age which would affect their representation in the college population. The Japanese American population is significantly older than other groups and the Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian population is significantly younger. Both groups, therefore, have a smaller proportion of their population in the 18-22 year old age group.
APASAC was pleased to hear that, unlike many other institutions, Penn does include APA students in the Minority Weekend recruitment effort. A proportion of applicants from minority groups underrepresented in U.S. higher education are invited to campus in early Spring. Applicants who have identified themselves as African American, Latino, and Native American are invited as persons from underrepresented minorities. Although Asian/Pacific Americans are not underrepresented on this campus or in U.S. higher education more generally, some face greater challenges than other APA or majority students in attaining a college education. In recognition of this fact, Penn invites a proportion of its Asian Pacific American applicants who are first generation college students to participate in Minority Weekend.4
APASAC applauds these efforts to recruit APA students. Several concerns were raised, however, about Minority Weekend. First, we are concerned about its overall effectiveness. We recommend that the success of the weekend be evaluated in terms of the effect of invitation to the weekend and of attendance at the weekend on matriculation for each of the minority groups targeted. Second, we are concerned that needy APA invitees be offered financial support to cover their expenses in attending the weekend. (Some APASAC members noted that the APA applicants in attendance at the weekend resided in nearby communities.) Finally, we believe that the Asian American Studies Program should play a role in the weekend.
APASAC also recommends that special efforts be made to include APA alumni in local recruitment events. These alumni may be helpful in improving the matriculation rate among the APA students that we accept. Furthermore, these contacts will also be useful for development and fundraising and for locating potential support for Asian American Studies.
Figure 3 reports data that APASAC examined with respect to the retention and graduation rates of APA students. We are pleased that APA graduation rates exceed those of other students at Penn. While we have concerns about APA intellectual and social life on campus, it is noteworthy that APA graduate rates surpass those of other students. We also note that the graduation rate of APA students has declined slightly in the last few years.
With the tremendous increase in APA representation in the undergraduate student body over the last decade, it is not surprising that these students are expecting to find role models in the administration and to encounter student service personnel who are sensitive to APA concerns. While ethnicity or race is neither a necessary nor a sufficient test that administrators have that sensitivity, the representation of APAs among our student service personnel may provide some indication of such sensitivity and certainly provides evidence of the availability of role models.
APASAC counted over 1700 APA undergraduates but only 15 APA administrators in student services at Penn in the early Spring of 1998. These included administrators in the Dental School, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Wharton School. (Some of these administrators deal primarily with graduate or professional students.) In addition, there were Asian Americans serving in Intercollegiate Athletics, the Office of Judicial Inquiry, International Programs, Student Health, PENNCAP, and Greenfield Intercultural Center. There are also three administrators in admissions and, in the case of the Graduate School of Education and the School of Medicine, there are Asian Americans in director and coordinator titles that could involve student services, but there was not sufficient information in the database to make that judgment. We also note that a student services administrator at Wharton recently left the University.
We spoke at some length about the significance of 15 student service administrators. While we did not come up with any way to discern the "right" number, we are convinced that "15" falls far short of the needs of the student population for role models and also suggests a scarcity of advisors with a strong understanding of unique issues faced by such students. The basis for this conclusion is evident in the discussion of student services in Section III of this report.
An evaluation of Penn's success in recruiting Asian Americans to the Penn faculty depends critically on how we view the data. If we examine rates of change, Penn has experienced remarkable growth in the representation of Asian Americans among the faculty. The overall representation remains low, however, especially when compared to the representation of Asian Americans in the undergraduate student body.
In the Fall of 1997, there were 122 standing faculty at Penn who self-identified as Asian American, a 15 percent increase over the previous year and a 30 percent increase over the number in 1990. Slightly more than half were assistant professors and a quarter were full professors. Table 1 shows the distribution of these faculty across ranks and across the schools at the University.
While Asian Americans account for almost a fifth of entering undergraduates (Figure 1), they account for only six percent of the standing faculty. These differences in representation reflect the recent history of migration to the United States and of assimilation. Asian American representation has grown substantially among undergraduates in the last decade, while faculty representation reflects the ethnic/racial composition of PhD and professional degree graduates ten, twenty, and thirty years ago.
The Affirmative Action Report for the Current Standing Faculty, Fall 1996, reports data on faculty hiring of Asian Americans relative to their representation in the pool of graduates in the relevant disciplines in the last ten years. Faculty hiring in the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences in Arts and Sciences substantially exceeded expectations based on APA representation in the national pool of qualified candidates. This is also the case for Engineering and Applied Science and Wharton. The faculty hiring records of the other schools were within the expected range, given APA representation in the pool of qualified applicants. APASAC notes, however, that "APA representation in the pool" is a "fluid" concept. Many Asian nationals who receive graduate degrees in the United States seek permanent jobs here. Once they are hired, they become eligible for, and usually apply for, permanent resident status. In this case, Asian nationals become APA hires even though they are not counted as being in the pool before they are hired (because they are Asian nationals until U.S. employment makes them eligible for permanent resident status).
While APASAC feels that the recent University record on hiring APA faculty is as strong as we could expect given the available pool, we also feel that it is very important that these recruitment efforts continue. If the University were able to continue to grow the APA faculty at the high percentage rate of last year (15%) and if it were not to lose any of the current faculty or future faculty that it recruits, it would take almost nine more years before APA representation on the faculty is equivalent to current APA representation in the undergraduate student body. Obviously, it is not likely that the University will retain all the APA faculty recruited and it will be difficult to grow the APA faculty at an annual rate of 15% for nine years. Therefore, we recommend continued vigilance that growth in the APA faculty continues.
The Asian American Studies Program at Penn is relatively new. The program began in the early 1990s following ardent requests from students. In the Fall of 1992, the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Rosemary Stevens, invited a team of scholars to Penn to advise the school on how it should proceed. The committee recommended that Penn allocate three faculty positions to the area, including one at a tenured level. Two assistant professors were hired in 1996 in the Departments of English and of Sociology whose research interests were focused on Asian American Studies. No tenured appointment has been made, so Dr. Rosane Rocher, Professor of South Asia Regional Studies chairs the program. In addition, several adjunct faculty teach in the program.
The program is offering seven courses this semester to 150 students; six courses were offered to 100 students in the fall. In the fall semester, three of the six classes were closed because they reached their maximum enrollment. overall, class sizes are below the average size within Arts and Sciences; there is currently not a large "unmet" demand for these courses. Enrollment is steadily growing, however, and is certainly of sufficient magnitude to justify the offering of the courses.
The growth in APA representation in our universities nationally as students, faculty and administrators will inevitably add to the growing interest in Asian American studies. Several of Penn's characteristics contribute to its likelihood of success in this field. The presence of large numbers of Asian American students, intellectual strength in the humanities and the social sciences, and an urban location with surrounding Asian American communities provide the resources to allow Penn to become a national leader in this emerging scholarship, while providing critical intellectual opportunities for all of our students.
The Asian American Studies Program is currently very small, but few programs outside of California and/or large public universities are larger. Penn's program needs an institutional support base, however. In surveying other programs around the nation, we note that most are housed in either an ethnic studies or an American studies department. Few stand alone as our program does. We recommend that the Asian American Studies Program and the School of Arts and Sciences consider whether independence from departments and from other ethnic studies programs is in the program's long-term interest. Why are we approaching Asian American Studies differently from peer institutions? If the Program became the responsibility of an SAS department, then there would be continuing clerical and administrative resources for students and faculty. Furthermore, it may be easier to develop a major and to strengthen the minor by using other courses from the department or from Afro-American Studies as well as the more focused Asian American Studies courses.
APASAC believes that the national reputation of the Asian American Studies Program makes it important that a tenured faculty member in the field be involved in the program. The committee is also concerned that there is no historian of Asian Americans on the faculty. We are concerned that the Program does not currently have access to support staff. We encourage the School of Arts and Sciences to address the personnel and organizational needs of the program.
Asian Pacific American students face particular issues that affect their experience at Penn. First, unlike any other racial and ethnic group, most Asian American youth are from immigrant households. According to the 1990 Census, 90% of Asian American children (18 and under) had immigrant parents, while the comparable figures for other groups are 59% for Hispanics, 6% of non-Hispanic African Americans and 5% of non-Hispanic whites.5 Thus, most Asian American students at Penn face the cultural conflicts that arise from immigrant parents and mainstream American values. Second, unlike other minority groups,6 Asian American youth are confronted with the stereotype that they are model minorities.
The expectation of Asian American youth is that they are stellar students (particularly in math and science fields) and that their development from adolescence to adulthood is relatively trouble-free.7 This stereotype creates high expectations of them from both faculty and parents; thus, when Asian American students experience academic difficulties, they are more likely to face disbelief from significant others. A recent ethnographic study of Asian American high school students suggests that when Asian American students perform poorly in school, they are likely to conceal this fact by acting like a studious student.8 Third, many Asian American students come from cultures that obligate children to unquestionably obey parents. Dornbusch et. al.,9 for instance, found that Asian American parents are more likely to be authoritarian (a parenting style that demands unquestioned obedience to parents) while white parents were more likely to be authoritative (a parenting style that allows discussion of rules between parents and children).
The model minority image, along with parental pressures, can limit the choices in careers and fields of study for Asian American undergraduates at Penn. The image of Asian American students is that they are good in math and science fields also implies that they are less able to pursue studies in the social sciences and humanities. For instance, despite the substantial representation of Asian American students at the undergraduate level, their number are quite modest at the graduate level. Specifically, while Asian Americans makeup about 18% of Penn's undergraduate population, they are only about 3% of Penn's Ph.D. students. Nationally, Asian Americans have grown from about 2.3% of doctoral recipients in 1988 to about 4% in 1995 and 1996.10
The 1997 report of the Pluralism Committee, the personal experiences of some APASAC members, and early reports from the VPUL-sponsored focus group study of APA students attest to the importance of the sensitivity of administrative staff and faculty to APA issues and concerns in providing effective personal and academic counseling. It was argued that APA students, among others, are not likely to appear at a counseling office to acknowledge a need for help and provide personal information to staff or faculty with whom they have had no prior relationship.11 For this reason, it is particularly important that faculty and staff become known to students as trustworthy and helpful before such help will be sought.
For all students, and for APA students in particular, it is important to have multiple access points by which students can obtain counseling and assistance. Sometimes a faculty member is viewed as sufficiently accessible and understanding to be approached when a student feels that she is in difficulty and, hopefully, faculty members will have sufficient knowledge of Penn's resources to refer the student to the appropriate places for help. Such faculty may become known to students through their coursework or through activities in the residences. Resident Advisors and Graduate Associates may also play such a role. Sometimes a coach or a staff member whom the student has encountered in student activities plays that role. Sometimes a career placement counselor will be sought out and other times a student will appear at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and seek help directly.
The small numbers of APA staff involved in student services (see Section I) relative to the large number of APA students suggest that APA students must necessarily look beyond APA administrators for guidance. APASAC is concerned that the extent of faculty/staff participation in, and assistance to, APA students and APA student organizations be sufficient to allow each APA student the opportunity to develop a relationship with a faculty/staff member that engenders the trust necessary for academic and personal counseling.
A staff member in CAPS who has been particularly successful at these forms of outreach to APA students and APA organizations recently left the University for another position. This departure has left a gap in service to this community. It is our understanding that CAPS is in the process of hiring another staff member who will have a specific charge to engage in outreach activities to APA students and their organizations. We are pleased that CAPS is taking the necessary steps to continue these important outreach activities. We urge CAPS to assure that these activities will be continuously maintained in the future so that no academic year goes by without such outreach.
The Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC) provides support and assistance to APA students and student organizations. GIC includes general meeting spaces, facilitators and consultants, and resources in the areas of diversity, multiculturism, and pluralism. GIC also sponsors a Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) who is paid $200 a week to assist APA students and their organizations for 20 hours per week. Students have expressed concerns that the job requires more time (and that recent GPCs have been spending hours in addition to those for which they were compensated) and that by restricting the position to Penn graduate students, the pool is too restricted. They point out that there are very few applicants for the position and that allowing a national or regional search for a full-time position would yield more candidates and permit a continuing presence rather than the short-term presence that is inherent in any position restricted to graduate students. APA students have recently met with the Vice Provost for University Life (VPUL) about this issue. VPUL has agreed to create a full-time GIC position to deal with APA student and organization issues.
The new College House system provides an important new opportunity to improve informal and formal advising for all Penn undergraduates. And, APA students are a particularly strong presence in the system. For next year, 31% of the Resident Advisors are APA students. APASAC commends the residential system for its recruitment of APA RAs. We also recommend that all House Deans, RAs, GAs, and faculty in the residences be given training on issues dealing with the unique concerns of APA students.
The large discrepancy between APA proportions of faculty and staff and
of the student population create potential overburdens for those faculty
and staff with the ability and interest to deal with the student outreach
needs of the APA student body. When hiring or placing employees in positions
advising students, VPUL and the schools must pay special attention to the
capacities of candidates to understand issues facing APA students. While
Penn is currently doing as well as could be expected in the recruitment
of APA faculty and staff, it is critical that these efforts continue. At
the current faculty and staff recruitment rates, however, it will be at
least a decade before APAs are as represented among our faculty and staff
as they are among our current students. In the mean time, it is critical
that faculty and staff understand the issues facing this group of students.
For all staff providers of student services and counseling, including those
in VPUL and those in the schools, training and education concerning the
special concerns and needs of these ethnic groups are critical.
IV. Summary and Recommendations [click here for President Rodin's response]
There has been rapid growth in the representation of Asian/Pacific Americans in the undergraduate student body over the last decade. Nonetheless, the University includes APA students who are first generation college students in the recruitment efforts aimed at applicants from underrepresented minority groups such as Minority Weekend. Penn has also seen growth in APA representation in the faculty, beyond expectations based on APA representation in the national pools of qualified candidates. As is the case for the University faculty, about half of APA faculty are in the School of Medicine.APA faculty are otherwise concentrated in the schools offering undergraduate programs, i.e., School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Wharton School. The APA faculty are less likely to be full professors, however.
While the Asian American Studies Program at Penn is both new and small, it is well positioned vis a vis other programs in the nation and the prospects for growth are excellent. Student services remains an issue complicated by the relatively small numbers of staff currently engaged in outreach to APA students and APA student organizations. Although the University is struggling to provide the student services and programs desired by APA students, it is important to note that APA students have higher retention and graduation rates than their Euro American counterparts.
The committee recommends the following next steps:
Finally, we realize that the issues that we raise here may apply to other ethnic and racial groups on campus. We encourage the President to consider ways to address those needs.Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs Committee
Janice F. Madden, Professor of Sociology and Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Chair Barbara A. Cassel, Associate Vice Provost for University Life Mark Chiang, Assistant Professor of English Sara S. Cho, Graduate Student Valerie De Cruz, Director of Greenfield Intercultural Center Grace Kao, Assistant Professor of Sociology Ronald Kim, Graduate Student Linda Koons, Executive Assistant to the Provost Eric Lee, Undergraduate Student Seung Lee, Undergraduate Student Bo Liang, Graduate Student Jorge Santiago-Aviles, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Dennis A. Yao, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management
Footnotes to the Report of the Committee
2 Data on the APA population in the United States in 1991 indicates that 39% of APAs 25 years of age and older have graduated from college, while only 22% of Euro Americans have. Furthermore, 16% of APAs have attended graduate school in comparison to only 9% of Euro Americans. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Brief: Asian and Pacific Islander Americans: A Profile, sb/93-12 (July 1993). APAs are 3.4% of the U.S. population aged 20-24 years in March of 1994 (U.S. Bureau of the Census), but 18% of Penn's undergraduate enrollment (Figure 1).
6 See Sue, Stanley and Okazaki, Sumie (1990) "Asian-American Educational Achievements: A Phenomenon in Search of an Explanation," American Psychologist, 45:913-920; Takagi, Dana (1992) The Retreat from Race: Asian-American Admissions and Racial Politics, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press), Takaki, Ronald (1989) Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian-Americans, (New York: Penguin Books); Caplan, Nathan, Marcella H. Choy, and John K. Whitmore (1991) Children of the Boat People: A Study of Educational Success, (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press); Kao, Grace (1995) "Asian-Americans as Model Minorities? A Look At Their Educational Performance," American Journal of Education, 103:121-159; Lee, Stacey (1996) Unraveling the Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth, (New York: Teachers College Press).
9 Dornbusch, Sanford M., Philip L.Ritter, P. Herbert Leiderman, Donald F. Roberts, Michael J. Fraleigh (1987) "The Relation of Parenting Style to Adolescent School Performance", Child Development, 58:1244-1257.
11 A report prepared by Dr. Ilene Rosenstein, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) shows that APA students accounted for 16% of the students seeking individual or group counseling in 1995-96. APA students appear to be using CAPS at a rate similar to their representation in the student body (See Figure 1 of this report). We note that the CAPS data cover a period when there was active outreach by CAPS to APA students.
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 10, November 3, 1998