According to an English proverb, "One man's meat is another man's poison." One group's benefit may be another's detriment. For years, people have accused the undergraduate admissions process of perpetuating discrimination. With each new freshman class, the fact that certain groups are consistently "underrepresented" never fails to arise. Each year, members of the University community continue to lobby, persistently voicing the sentiment that this underrepresentation must end. Only when such bigotry is finally driven from the University, it is said, will true justice reign. Increasing these groups' numbers is a project that no administrator would dare publicly oppose. After all, who would be against a larger undergraduate enrollment for these minorities? Yet despite years of lobbying, proportional representation, the only logical solution to underrepresentation, has failed to arrive -- yet. But what does a solution to underrepresentation imply? Behind the rhetoric, what is the end result of proportional undergraduate matriculation? Let's take a look at the numbers: The University officially divides its matriculates into five types of U.S. citizens: Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and White. Who is underrepresented? According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of the Census and the University of Pennsylvania Registrar's undergraduate data, blacks, while making up 11.9% of the U.S. population, are only 5.4% of the undergraduate enrollment at the University. Hispanic students, despite totaling 9.3% of the country, are only 3.8% of the University. And Native Americans, who are 0.7% of the nation, are 0.2% of the University. It's clear: the University must recruit and enroll more blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Committees, money, and hours are diligently devoted to this seemingly benevolent cause. From the Affirmative Action Council to the programs for minority recruitment, members of the University have proclaimed to the world that they will not allow such groups to be underrepresented. But if these are groups from which we want more students, does this mean that there are groups from which we want less students? Undergraduate admissions is a "zero sum" game -- when dealing strictly with percentages, if one group increases in number, another must decrease in number. Even an English major can figure this out. So, if everyone officially agrees that the University needs more blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, who do we want less of? What group burdens us with their over-population, preventing other groups from enrolling in their deserved numbers? Whites make up 75.2% of the U.S. population. Yet at the University, only 64.1% of the undergraduates are part of this demographic group. Yes, whites are underrepresented at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course, it would be sheer folly to insinuate that the University needs to recruit more white undergraduates. An application that advertised a "white scholars weekend" to encourage applicants would not go over very well. But if whites, too, are underrepresented, who is overrepresented? Asians, who make up 3.0% of the nation, are 17.1% of the undergraduate population at the University. By a factor of almost 6, Asians have succeeded in reaching this Ivy institution far beyond their numbers. They can proudly proclaim that they, as a people, are "overrepresented." Or maybe that's not such a good thing. If people at the University see underrepresentation as the unjust evil that must be remedied, aren't they necessarily implying that overrepresentation must end as well? Anyone who directly advocated decreasing the undergraduate Asian population would justifiably be labeled a racist. It's clearly bigotry to oppose a group's presence simply because of race. Yet with such projects as the Andrew W. Mellon Minority Undergraduate Scholar's Program that wishes to increase the presence of "underrepresented" groups on campus, the University seems to be advocating a system of proportional representation. How can such equity ultimately be achieved? Only through the systematic reduction of Asian matriculates. It seems odd that campus leaders, from administrators to students, would champion such a seemingly racist cause. Underrepresentation is deemed indicative of institutional racism -- yet how can the remedying of this situation be viewed any differently? The next time someone argues for proportional representation, ask them to explain what is needed to achieve this goal. If the ideas espoused by opponents of underrepresentation are brought to their logical conclusion, no other possibility can be reached. The facts are clear: Members of the University community wish to eliminate underrepresentation in official demographic groups. Asians are the only group that is overrepresented. Can underrepresentation be eliminated without simultaneously doing away with overrepresentation? Clearly -- barring the creation of a new, progressive system of mathematics -- the answer is "no."
Dan Schorr is a junior English major from Valley Stream, New York. Behind Enemy Lines appears alternate Fridays.Comments powered by Disqus
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