By Ethan Chua
According to the most recent undergraduate student profile of Stanford students (updated as of February 2019), 22% of undergraduates identify as Asian, making Asians the largest racial minority on Stanford’s campus. However, underrepresented Asian American communities such as the Hmong, Lao, Khmer, and Tibetan communities, among others, comprise only a tiny fraction of this 22%. In January 2004, 40 Southeast Asian students protested outside the Dean of Admissions office, demanding an increase in Southeast and South Asian outreach and admissions efforts. Their activism led to the formation of the Hmong Student Union and the Stanford Khmer Association in 2007. Yet over a decade later, these student organizations are at risk of disappearing, as there are not enough students who identify as Lao or Tibetan to meet the 10-person minimum required for a voluntary student organization (VSO). We have seen member numbers dwindle or remain stagnant, and we fear for the future of our communities at Stanford.
The 22% Campaign was organized in light of this situation, calling back to student activism in 2004 in order to demand, again, an increase in outreach and admissions efforts to underrepresented Asian American communities, as well as the disaggregation of data in the admissions process so that our communities can be recognized as underrepresented. We are a coalition of students from the Pilipino-American Student Union, Stanford Vietnamese Student Association, Stanford Hmong Student Union, Stanford Khmer Association, and Tibetan Student Union, and we are tired of filling in for Stanford’s lack of dedication to our communities with high school outreach programs we ourselves have to organize in order to survive. We are tired, too, of being erased whenever Asian Americans are touted as a “model minority” — whatever this model is, it does not apply to our communities, which continue to be plagued by deportation, mass incarceration, over-policing, and a dearth of educational and social opportunities.
We sent out our initial demands to the Stanford administration on Oct. 25, 2019, and have since gathered over 380 signatures from members of the Stanford community and other allies. We’ve received statements of support from both individuals and organizations, including the Laotian American Community of Fresno, UCLA’s Vietnamese Student Union, and the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee. We were able to meet with Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw on Jan. 17 to discuss our demands and the state of our campaign. In light of that meeting, we are revising our demands to better reflect our new understanding of the systemic issues plaguing Stanford Admissions.
From Dean Shaw, we learned that Stanford began disaggregating its data as of the current admissions cycle. While we welcome this news, we are concerned as to why it has been kept private, especially considering the impact this change could have on the future of our communities. We understand the sensitivity of admissions data; however, Stanford’s lack of forthrightness with respect to its admissions process borders on draconian, and we cannot ensure the future of our communities if we don’t even know the rationale behind Stanford’s change in policy and its concrete effects on the process for evaluating applicants. In our current political climate, the onus is on universities like Stanford to reaffirm their commitment to communities of color, especially in light of the recent lawsuit against Harvard concerning its affirmative action policies. To clarify, we are not asking Stanford to reveal all the intricacies of its internal admissions process — rather, we are asking it to release the breakdown of ethnicities within the racial categories it publishes on the IDEAL website so that our communities can better understand how we are represented within the student body. We are also requesting that the Stanford admissions office is transparent with the process of their diversity training. Although it is wonderful that the office is implementing trainings, we cannot ensure that the trainings themselves are accurate and affirming to our communities without our own input.
In our meeting with Dean Shaw, he asserted the importance of outreach alongside data disaggregation, and we wholeheartedly agree — disaggregating data is meaningless without corresponding outreach to underrepresented Asian American communities. Currently, our VSOs do a disproportionate amount of outreach work in order to keep our communities alive, running multiple high school outreach programs to reach prospective applicants. The onus should not be on us to reach out to our communities. We shouldn’t be doing Stanford’s job. If Stanford is truly committed to diversity, and if it truly stands behind our communities, it should come up with a concrete action plan for how it plans to reach each of them. And it should put institutional and material resources into this initiative by creating a task force staffed by personnel from our communities dedicated specifically to outreach towards underrepresented minorities.
The 22% Campaign is currently composed of underrepresented Asian Americans, and as such our demands reflect the specific needs of our communities that have emerged from multiple open meetings, conversations, and discussions. However, the fight for fair admissions and for a diverse community is not limited to Asian Americans, and as we continue to wage our campaign, we hope to make further space for the voices of Black, Native and Latinx folx who are also persistently erased by this institution. We reaffirm our commitment to all communities of color, all descendants of migrants and refugees, all Black and Indigenous students in our continuing struggle for genuine liberation.
Given that, the 22% Campaign’s revised set of demands are as follows:
- An official statement from the University explaining its rationale for choosing to disaggregate data and the relationship of that choice to its commitment to diversity, in addition to its stance on Affirmative Action for our marginalized communities.
- Publicly release disaggregated numbers — specifically the percentage breakdowns of ethnicities within each racial group in the admitted class — not only on the Asian American population at Stanford but all racial groups by the next (class of 2025) admissions cycle.
- Provide the names and Stanford emails of admitted underrepresented members of each community to their respective community centers for the purpose of further outreach by the next (class of 2025) admissions cycle.
- A revised definition of “Underrepresented Minorities” in ourvision.stanford.edu, which presently does not include underrepresented Asian American communities.
- The creation and implementation of an action plan for nationwide outreach to underrepresented Asian American communities with prospective college applicants, as well as a commitment to conducting intentional and informed research on our populations and their specific needs.
- The creation of an admissions task force focused on outreach to underrepresented minority communities, including the hiring of at least two non-Ivy League graduates, full-time outreach coordinators of color from said underrepresented minority communities, within the next three years.
- The 22% Campaign also demands a copy of Stanford’s current diversity training protocol for its admissions readers, so that our communities can provide appropriate feedback.
- Until an admissions task force can be established and Stanford continues to rely on the labor of student organizations for high school outreach, they should be financially compensated for their efforts in an equitable way.
Ethan Chua ’20
Signed, The 22% Campaign
Contact Ethan Chua at ezlc327 ‘at’ stanford.edu.