Asian American Students in Higher Ed . . . It’s Complicated

Episode 07

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired on October 15, 2019

Just a week after a district court judge rejected claims that Harvard University intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants, Julie J. Park, associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, College Park, talks with hosts Jon Fansmith and Lorelle Espinosa about what this decision means for the future of diversity in higher education. 

They also discuss why Asian American students’ experiences don’t always fit with the “model minority” stereotypes and what institutions can do to serve students from diverse backgrounds.

Later, Lorelle and Jon talk about the Supreme Court’s upcoming hearing on President Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and how the higher education community is responding. The court will hear the case Nov. 12. 

This episode is brought to you by the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Episode Notes

Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:

Conversation with Julie J. Park

Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data
By Julie J. Park

An Uneven Playing Field: The Complex Educational Experiences of Asian Americans
Higher Education Today | Aug. 21, 2019

Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report
ACE

Judge Upholds Harvard's Admissions Policies
Inside Higher Ed | Oct. 7, 2019​

Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on Harvard University Admissions Case Ruling​
ACE

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard University resource page
ACE

Issue Brief—The Harvard Admissions Case: Reactions to the Judge’s Ruling​
ACE

DACA in the Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Review DACA Program Protecting Young Undocumented Immigrants
The Washington Post (sub req.) | June 28, 2019

ACE, 43 Other Associations Submit Amicus Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold the Legality of DACA

Transcript

 Read this episode's transcript

​Jon Fansmith [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to dotEDU, the higher education podcast from the American Council on Education. I'm your host, John Fansmith with ACE's government relations division and I'm joined by my regular co-host, Lorelle Espinosa. Hi, Lorelle. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:00:17] Hey, Jon. How's it going? 

Jon Fansmith [00:00:19] It's good. Welcome back. We missed you on the last episode. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:00:21] Yes, that was a good one. I enjoyed that, listening to that. Lindsay Wayt. 

Jon Fansmith [00:00:25] So you skipped it, but you least listened to it. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:00:28] That's right. I skipped it but listened to it. 

Jon Fansmith [00:00:30] It's sort of like a minimal co-host responsibility. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:00:32] Exactly.

Jon Fansmith [00:00:32] OK. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:00:33] You know. I'm caught up. 

Jon Fansmith [00:00:35] You're caught up. We're gonna be joined in just a little bit by our guest today, Julie J. Park. She's an associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, College Park. And her research addresses how race, religion, and social class affect diversity and equity in higher education--in particular, the experience of Asian-American college students. Before we get to Julie, though, I just mentioned you were away the last time we're doing this. Were you were doing fun things or were you doing things like I was, which were boring and entirely DC-based? 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:01:06] No, I was doing fun things. Well, a fun vacation thing. I went to Maine, Southwest Harbor, Maine, where my husband's family is from, from Maine in general, but we went to Acadia National Park, did some hiking, fresh air, the leaves were starting to turn. It's very lovely. 

Jon Fansmith [00:01:23] It's a good time of year to be up there. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:01:24] That was nice. And then I went to Boston for a board retreat. I sit on the board of College Possible. We had Jim McCorkell on as one of our earlier podcast guests. And so I did a retreat with--. 

Jon Fansmith [00:01:36] Our first podcast guest. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:01:38] Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Everyone should go back and listen to that one, too. 

Jon Fansmith [00:01:42] And, if you haven't, listen to it several more times, you'll increase our hits. We'd appreciate that.

Lorelle Espinosa [00:01:45] Exactly. And rate us highly. But yeah, then I went back, came back home and left again for Chicago. I went to HACU's annual conference, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. And we've had them on as well. 

Jon Fansmith [00:02:01] That's right. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:02:02] All in the family! So I spoke at their dean's forum on our Race and Ethnicity Project, which of course, the website is equityinhighered.org. And we'll actually talk about those data that the research team here at ACE has produced with Julie, when we get to Julie. So, yeah, it's full dissemination of that work now, conference season, fall conference season. People are really hungry for that information and it's being very well received. So that was a good trip. 

Jon Fansmith [00:02:31] And I like the consistency that Jon Turk, who filled in for you last week, had also just been to Chicago. Now we keep a regular rotation of ACE staff headed to Chicago. So... 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:02:41] It's a great city. 

Jon Fansmith [00:02:42] Serving the Midwest well. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:02:43] That's right. 

Jon Fansmith [00:02:44] Well, we'll be back in just a second with our guest. This episode is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:02:59] And we're back. Welcome, Julie. 

Julie Park [00:03:01] Glad to be here. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:03:02] Yeah. Not too far of a commute for you from University of Maryland, but we're really glad that you came to be with us in person. You and I have known each other for a number of years, maybe...14 years. 

Julie Park [00:03:15] Oh my goodness. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:03:16] I know, that sounds...We sound old. But we went to graduate school together at UCLA. We've both long been focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, among other things. And I think it would help our listeners to hear a little bit about your background, your scholarship, why you do the work that you do, before we jump into our discussion today. 

Julie Park [00:03:38] Sure, I'd be happy to do that. I am a proud Midwesterner, so I grew up in the great state of Ohio. I am the child of Korean immigrants and so a second generation Asian American. And I've taught at the University of Maryland, College Park since about 2011--so moved to the D.C. area around there. And my research mainly looks at race, diversity in higher education, things related to affirmative action, campus climate. I have a book that came out last year. It's called, Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data. And so that was my big project that I was glad to finally get done. Get out the door. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:04:13] Yeah, that's a great book, by the way, for anyone that wants to read a book about race on campus that is very accessible. I really appreciated how you made the language so accessible for a variety of readers. So anyone can really pick that up and feel more informed about how to manage race on campus, how to manage the issues. 

Jon Fansmith [00:04:30] And I was going to say, as someone who is not as academically trained as the two of you are, I don't know if it's a compliment, but the readability of the book is really very impressive. I mean, it lays complicated issues out in a way that just makes it very clear. So, yeah, I enjoyed it immensely from a non-academic perspective. 

Julie Park [00:04:47] Yeah. Thank you so much. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:04:50] You should do an endorsement. 

Julie Park [00:04:52] No. You can leave a review on Amazon. 

Jon Fansmith [00:04:54] That's right. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:04:56] Well, you know, this is a salient topic for this moment. And we're gonna talk about the Harvard decision around race conscious admissions in a little bit, but you also have contributed to our race and ethnicity in higher education project. You wrote an essay for us entitled, An Uneven Playing Field: The Complex Educational Experiences of Asian Americans. And, you know, when you look at the data in this report, this big report we put out back in February and I mentioned the website earlier, we see a narrative for Asian students that they're doing quite well. You know, this is a narrative that I think has been around for a long time. They're 6 percent of the population, so they're small in terms of the demographic in the U.S. But, on the whole, they're really widely talked about in higher ed as being high achievers. We see them going to college at higher rates, educational attainment is higher. They're studying STEM. They look really good. But what I appreciated about your essay is that you break down some of these common stereotypes of this group and would love for you to just tell us a little bit about what the narrative and the misconceptions are in terms of this population. 

Julie Park [00:06:04] Sure. Yeah. The first broad set of misconceptions I think you described really well, which is the idea that Asian Americans are sort of this monolithic group, that they're pretty much all high achievers, that they're doing, you know, really well. And when you look at everyone as a lump, if you don't disaggregate between different ethnic subgroups or across social class, then it could look that way. But definitely when you break the population apart, you see that there is a wide range of diversity. And so that's sort of the first big myth, right. The idea that, "Hey, Asians are just doing great, right?" But on the other side, I talked in my essay about unpacking. While it is true that certain ethnic subgroups tend to have lower rates of educational attainment and tend to face more challenges, I talked about sort of a second misconception, which is the misconception that these groups are in some way failing. And I warn against only defining them by this idea that, "Oh, these are sort of the outliers." These are the ones that are just kind of not doing as well and warning against the propensity to only define them by sort of this idea that they're falling behind on their own, when in reality it's a little more complicated. These groups tend to encounter really entrenched forms of structural inequality, whether that's racism, classism, substandard public schools, and the like. And so that was the second. And then the third aim of the essay was to unpack the bigger picture, because I think from the report, if you look at just the statistics at face value, Asian-Americans on the whole are outpacing certain groups. But the question is, is that just...is it sort of like a neutral thing? Are they just doing maybe what they're supposed to be doing and other groups are falling behind? I think that's one read of it that the public tends to kind of pick up. Or is there something that some Asian Americans have access to? Are there forms of structural advantage that a section of the population has access to? So that was the thing that I wanted to highlight most in my essay about how the system works in a way for many, not all, but for many Asian Americans, where they're able to access high-quality public schooling, they're able to have high rates of participation in things like SAT prep, etc. So it's not just that this group is just doing their thing and other groups are falling behind. It's that this system is working for certain groups better than it is for others. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:08:38] And it's sort of masking the disadvantage of some of the other ethnic subgroups, as you said. So tell us a little bit about how this complicates how we think about students as being good or bad or what are some other broad implications that these data have spoken to you? 

Julie Park [00:09:01] Yeah, I think with Asian Americans, the tricky thing is...Maybe sometimes why people shy away from talking about the structural advantage is that some, not all, Asian Americans have is because Asian...even these Asian Americans will also encounter racism, other forms of structural inequality, etc. So, I think in that way, they complicate this narrative. It seems...sometimes we kind of...It is simpler to just say, "OK, this group encounters just disadvantage across the board. And this group, you know, encounters advantage across the board." And, you know, I think Asian Americans, different sectors of the Asian American population, even, the diversity that exists within that community, you can pick out a certain chunk and said, "Yes, this group on the whole does have access to higher quality public schools, things like SAT prep, etc, but they also will likely encounter potentially racism from teachers. They might experience other forms of discrimination, etc." So it's not sort of this either/or, it's kind of a both/and. It's possible to experience some advantage, but then also experience certain disadvantages whether it's in the educational system or even later on in the transition to the workforce or sort of mobility throughout different fields. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:10:17] Yeah. And are there certain subpopulations that people are paying more attention to, the ones that have more advantage in terms of the ethnic subgroups? 

Julie Park [00:10:27] Yeah. I mean, you know, Chinese Americans are a really interesting one where they're very much sort of this bimodal population. You have higher SES Chinese Americans and then you have very much lower SES Chinese Americans. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:10:39] Socioeconomic status. And they really complicate some of these conversations because a really hot issue right now are the elite high schools in New York City, right? 

Jon Fansmith [00:10:52] Testing. 

Julie Park [00:10:53] Testing, yes. And Asian Americans tend to be--including Chinese Americans--tend to be very well represented in those competitive high schools. And it's really interesting, because here's a case where a lower-income population of a subgroup has been able to access some of these resources that can help propel people towards social mobility. On the other hand, of course, probably the best case scenario is to be coming from a more affluent background and be harnessing those advantages. Sort of cumulative advantage. And so that's a group that I think is is complicated. And we want to be able to open the door to access and opportunity for all of these students. But the question, some difficult questions are, well, we want to do that to all students regardless of skin color. We want to recognize the potential that exists across racial ethnic group and we're losing a lot of talent because we have a system that is capturing only a very narrow aspect of excellence. But, at the same time, I can see, especially among certain low-income Asian American groups, say Chinese American groups, they've responded to the messages that the system has sent them. The system has said, "If you put all your eggs in this basket of, say, test prep or just studying your heart out for this test, this is your golden ticket." And so you have to be...On the other hand, I have empathy because that makes sense. Especially if you're growing up in poverty or coming to this country with very few resources. The idea that, "Hey, you could get out through education" is a very powerful one. But at the same time...So the system, you know, in some ways has supported social mobility for these low-income Asian Americans. But, on the other hand, as I said, it unfortunately has done so by operating under narrow conceptions of excellence. And so I think New York City, I don't envy them. They're having very difficult, to say the least, conversations about how do you rework the system to support mobility for everyone because, at the end of the day, we all rise and fall together. 

Jon Fansmith [00:13:00] And there was something really interesting in your book on that point. You mentioned the test prep that I that was sort of fascinating that I think it was low-income Chinese Americans had a higher percentage of tests, of students taking test prep than high-income white Americans. 

Julie Park [00:13:14] Yeah. Yeah, definitely low-income Korean Americans. 

Jon Fansmith [00:13:16] OK. All right. 

Julie Park [00:13:17] I don't remember off the bat whether that was true for Chinese Americans. But, yes, Korean Americans are another group that have really embraced the test prep bandwagon, if you will. And it's interesting, because that's a dynamic that cuts across social class within certain chunks of the Asian American community versus for other groups. I think you would see that more affluent students are much more likely to take test prep than others. 

Jon Fansmith [00:13:40] And that's sort of...There are some other things within the Asian American community talked about, not to get too far into the Harvard case, one of the things I talked about was that the people who brought the lawsuit had cited East Asians and their acceptance rates, but it excluded Southeast Asians from the percentage of people, I believe. Am I getting that correctly? 

Julie Park [00:14:01] I think in some of the portrayals of the data. I believe in the original complaint. 

Jon Fansmith [00:14:07] Because there were disparities if you separate out the groups that way. And is that consistent across the subgroups within Asian Americans or is that...? 

Julie Park [00:14:17] Yeah, I mean, generally if you do disaggregate the data, you will see patterns of inequity. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:14:23] And this is a big issue for data, however, which is that the way that it's often collected, including at the federal level for a lot of the data that we use in our report, even the race and ethnicity report, but any of the data that you'll see out there is not disaggregated. I mean, that's kind of where we stand with the picture looking rosy because everyone's sort of lumped together and you don't see difference. I just want to ask one final question about this and it's the role of family. So, when I'm out on the road talking about these data, inevitably someone will ask a question about, well, "You know, is it partly cultural in terms of some of these trends, the role of family?" Like you were saying, about maybe families really getting on board with all the things that one is expected to do, the test prep and there's like some kind of cultural family aspect to that? Is that something that you've seen with your work? 

Julie Park [00:15:17] Sure. You know, it's interesting because people say, "Asian Americans have a value for education." But in some ways, that suggests that other groups don't. And I think what we've come to see in our research is really generally all groups have a value for education and all, generally most, if not all families have a great value of education. It's just both sort of the resources and maybe the social socialization and access to information about how to navigate the system definitely cuts across differently depending on groups. And so with Asian American and Asian Americans in the role of family, I sometimes caution away the idea of using this sort of quick explanation of, "Oh, it's their culture" which is kind of the shorthand. And, in some ways, if you define culture as, "Oh, what do people see as normal?" then you might say, yes. But at the same time, culture is influenced very much--this is academic exploitation--is very much influenced by structural patterns. And so for Asian Americans, some of the most significant ones have been patterns of immigration. And so 1965 immigration reform, the first wave really opened the door for highly educated Asian American professionals and Asian Americans who are coming over here for the specific purpose of graduate study, like my own father who came here in 1965-1966. 1967? Sorry, Dad. And so this wasn't just a random sample. They were really cream of the crop. And so that was really the wave that set the pace in terms of these families who are pushing education, but I think you probably would have seen the same thing if you took the upper echelon from any other country. And later on, you had immigration policies that open the door for family reunification and for more socio-economically diverse pools of Asian immigrants. But sort of the standard of what was normal had really been set by that first major wave of highly educated immigrants. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:17:15] So I think an amazing point to make about where a group starts in education when they arrive. Because again, I think that this question about culture, it comes up for the Hispanic population as well. Oh, there's some cultural differences here that are driving students to take out less loans or fewer loans or driving to enroll in college, which we've seen an enormous growth of Hispanic students over the last 20 years enrolling. But, yes, it's so much more complicated. So now I have a better feel for what to say when I get these questions. I'll direct them to your essay as an expert on sort of breaking down those migration patterns and you know, just how complicated it actually is. 

Jon Fansmith [00:17:58] And I think that's sort of an interesting point to transition to something that obviously has been greatly in the news, but touches on all of the things we've just discussed, which is this recent decision at Harvard, recent District Court decision involving Harvard University's admissions practices. This was based on a lawsuit by Students for Fair Admission, which is a group that opposes affirmative action and has pushed litigation in a number of different...against a number of different institutions. The district court judge handed down a decision last week, I think last Tuesday. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:18:37] It was on my birthday, actually. Yeah. I was like, "Thank you for this birthday gift." 

Jon Fansmith [00:18:41] That was a birthday present? 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:18:42] Yeah, it was a great birthday present. October 1st.

Jon Fansmith [00:18:45] And Lorelle is tipping her hand a little bit here, but the judge ruled overwhelmingly in Harvard's favor, essentially said on the four counts of the suit that was brought, on all four they found in favor of Harvard. Obviously, the basis of the suit was that Harvard was systematically discriminating against Asian Americans, that they were doing a variety of things, using race as a determining factor in admissions, that they weren't considering sufficiently race-neutral alternatives to admissions. Trying to think through two other counts were...Well, I already mentioned the intentional discrimination against Asian Americans and that they were using racial balancing essentially, coming up with predetermined percentages of students of different ethnicity to include as part of their class. Again, district court found against...Found in Harvard's favor on all those. The one sort of interesting thing in the decision, though, was that they said there might be still some discrimination in Harvard's admissions process. But the judge thought that that might be the result more of an implicit bias on the part of people who work in admissions at Harvard rather than any systemic...The line a lot of people talked about was, the judge described Harvard's having a perfect process, not necessarily perfect outcome, but a perfect process. Julie, I'm sure you were following this case very closely, just kind of interested to hear your thoughts. And, I guess before we say that, we should say this is the district court decision. Students for Fair Admissions has already appealed. So this will undoubtedly go to the appellate court. I think people think a Supreme Court hearing is inevitable and we'll have yet another, I guess this will be the third at whatever point it reaches the Supreme Court in the last decade, challenge to affirmative action in higher education admissions. So this is by no means the end of this process, but obviously a very positive first step in where we stand. So sorry, Julie, but just your thoughts on this relates. It directly to your scholarship. 

Julie Park [00:20:45] Yeah, sure. Happy to weigh in. I have to give my standard disclosure that I served as a consulting expert on this case on the side of Harvard up until July 2018. And so all views shared here are my own and don't reflect anything related to Harvard or anything learned through the course of my engagement. But yeah, it was October 1st. It was funny because I was slated to go to NYU the next day to be on a panel to talk about this case. And so I was just looking through my notes beforehand and kind of thinking in my head like, "I'm a little tired of talking about the same things. And I almost wish I had something new to talk about." And so we got our wish. We got something really new the day before. And it really injected a lot of energy. 

Jon Fansmith [00:21:29] Lorelle got a birthday present and you got a new topic. 

Julie Park [00:21:31] Great. It was great timing. Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by the ruling. I was like reading it all the night before the panel, cramming 140 pages or so. But yeah, I mean, it was really thorough. I can see why it took a little while to come out. I thought that the judge really wanted to leave no stone unturned in sort of addressing all the big, but also some of what might people might think of as kind of some even minor details. Really wanting to address sort of alternative explanations. SFFA is saying this is discrimination. And the judge offering reasons for why it wasn't necessarily. I thought it was interesting. Either she or she has some clerks who have some sort of pretty strong social science stats background because they really spent a lot of time, and they needed to, in weighing the statistics, the testimony offered by both sides who had the economists. This case really was the battle of the dueling statisticians. Looking at the different analysis. And so she really dived in and she's talking about the interaction effects and sampling and differences in selection of variables and all sorts of things that I'm not quite sure if it could have looked different if it were a different judge. But with this judge, she paid a lot of detail and addressed a lot of the nuance and even some of the uncertainty, some of the gray and ambiguity that can exist behind statistics. And I think the best thing was that she recognized that while these analysis on both sides can offer us a lot of insight, at the end of the day, admissions officers...there're still things that they take into account that can't always be captured neatly by the variables that are included in an analysis. So she paid a lot of...some attention to that. I think she addressed pretty explicitly that SFFA didn't bring forth adequate evidence of proof of discrimination. And where that was most telling was that they didn't enter any single applicant's file into evidence or they didn't have any applicants who were rejected testify. And Harvard did. Well, there was...through, I think, represented through the NAACP and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. They brought forth students who testified during the trial, including two, I think, at least two Asian American students who were Harvard students who were admitted. And they talked about how they talked about their race/ethnicity during their essays. They talked about how, if they couldn't talk about their race, that would really be censoring a part of themselves or losing a part of themselves. And so it was very much...And the judge acknowledged, one of the really, I thought, eloquent parts where she talked about how it would be an undue burden on Asian American students if they were not allowed to talk about their race/ethnicity is what really the testimony demonstrated. And on the other hand, SFFA didn't... They said our students have been discriminated against, etc. but they didn't offer any individual student files. And I don't know if that could change as the case moves up the ladder. But that seemed to be something that she paid attention to. So, yeah, lots of really... It was a very thorough ruling. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:25:02] Yeah. And lots of data, like you said, which is really uncommon to see in these decision as they're written up. Yeah. I think I had maybe some of the same reactions as you and also, everyone that follows race-conscious admissions and disclaimer I was an admissions officer at a highly selective institution so I've lived this life of reviewing applications and taking a myriad of factors into account, race being one of them, this is a moment where you breathe a sigh of relief and then you pretty quickly say, "OK, what's next?" It feels good that Harvard was vindicated. I do appreciate, though, this bringing up of implicit bias because these are these are people sitting down with applications, making judgments. This is not a robot who--. 

Jon Fansmith [00:25:56] You're not scoring, checking the box. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:25:58] You're not. And in fact, you're...I mean, like pretty much you're not even meant to do it that way. Like, you're really taking a host of things into account and crafting a class that, in the case of Harvard's, is a small class for the number of applicants that they get. So this is not an enviable job to begin with. It's very hard. And of course, people bring their own biases. They bring their own life experiences. So I appreciated her bringing that up as well, but just acknowledging that this is a win, but it's not the end of the road. And I feel like all of us that follow it and are very much in favor of an institution's ability to consider race as one factor in the process are sort of gearing up for the next round. 

Jon Fansmith [00:26:42] And I think it's one of those things, obviously at ACE we've been following closely, our members care very deeply about this. This has been a principle for American higher education for a long time: the importance of diversity and the importance of a holistic process for admissions. It considers all these factors. You know, I kind of mentioned this, but I do worry a little bit that these cases were decades apart and now they seem to be coming...they're a few years apart. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:27:05] Yeah, in quick succession. 

Jon Fansmith [00:27:07] And obviously, the composition of the Supreme Court looks very different now than it did a few years ago and certainly than it did a decade ago. So Julie, just to ask obviously we can't foretell the legal process, but do you think this ruling has any implications for what institutions will do in terms of their admissions policies? Is this affirmation of the existing processes, basically? Or do you think certain schools will look at this and say, "Well, maybe we should be doing something a little bit different?" Obviously, implicit bias training might be something that a lot of schools should start thinking about, but are there other sort of implications to take if you are a college or university president looking at how you do admissions? 

Julie Park [00:27:48] Sure. I think it's just an affirmation that everything needs to be done with so much attention. And the idea that while some level of implicit bias is inevitable, that you really want to tighten up the ship to the extent possible, and so that might include more explicit training around the role of bias, both implicit and explicit. And we know that this is an issue that affects pretty much all students of color. So we do have existing research that documents bias against admissions against African Americans in the process. We know with low-income students, that if you receive more information on them, admissions officers are more likely to admit them, which is a good thing, but then also suggests in previous years, probably there were a lot of students who weren't getting the benefit of the most thorough read because maybe a reviewer didn't have all the context, etc. The judge did make note that...she noted that consistent testimony that Harvard's admissions officers were very explicit that they did not consider race until the calculation or the assessment of the overall rating. And that, in the meantime, I think in between the time the complaint was filed and somewhere around the trial, Harvard did...the admissions office did issue some more explicit training and material to officers being specific around, "Don't take some of these terms or etc. just to make sure that...instructions basically about not stereotyping students. I think there was some manual or instructions that were released and she said that was a good thing. And so I might hope that we might see some more of that in institutions and maybe increased levels of checks and balances. Although I will say, I agree with Lorelle, the implicit biases. The whole fact is it's implicit. The whole point is you don't know about it. But, at the same time, I think Harvard's review committee and others, they really, from my familiarity, made an effort just to be both as thorough as possible. But it seems like in this whole person review you had constant checks and balances, constant conversations, re-conversations about these students, etc. And so I think they were already trying to run a very tight ship. So, yeah. And then also there's the entire issue of diversifying the admissions profession to begin with is, you know, critical. We know that it's a pretty less diverse profession. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:30:26] Right. Certainly at the most elite institutions. 

Julie Park [00:30:29] Yes. Right. And they lose a lot of entry-level people, which is where you tend to get the most diversity. And so there's some interesting, I think, initiatives. There's a group, they're running this effort called Hack the Gates right here. They're trying to just really brainstorm. Just like thinking outside the box. And it's collaborative between researchers and actually admissions officers coming together to just say, "Hey how could we really turn this thing inside out to make it more equitable?" And so I hope that they'll be issuing recommendations and they're coming at a good time, right? 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:30:59] Yeah, that's right. And I appreciate the collaboration of researchers and practitioners. You can't have one or the other informing how this works. It really is a collaborative effort to inform how a practice should play out. 

Jon Fansmith [00:31:16] Of course since you're a researcher and a former admissions officer you have to say that. These are your people. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:31:21] But I do appreciate it. I appreciate my practitioner experience and now I have the research lens and the policy lens being in D.C., it's a nice combo. I wish everyone could experience that. 

Jon Fansmith [00:31:35] And that's a great point to end on. Julie, I do want to give you a chance. Is there anything else you'd like to say before we thank you sincerely and give you back the rest of your day? 

Julie Park [00:31:46] No, but it was great chatting. It's really good. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:31:49] Thanks for coming. 

Jon Fansmith [00:31:50] Thank you so much. It was great having you on. And we'll be back in just a second to talk about what's going on here in Washington. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:32:01] And we're back. That was a great conversation. 

Jon Fansmith [00:32:03] It really was. Yeah, I sort of said this about the book, the readability of her book. But just having her here and sort of walking through serious things, it's...as somebody who's not as well versed in these issues as you are, it's incredibly helpful that somebody can talk to you in a way that makes it really clear. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:32:20] Exactly. We need more of that. We actually need more researchers to do that because there's a lot of evidence now on this issue, certainly on race, on campus overall. But also the very issue she was speaking to and we want that to be in the hands of people that make decisions and have the power to shape student experience. I really appreciated that. So, yes, speaking of the Supreme Court, we have another case that also involves race to some degree here with DACA. So this is marching its way as well. I know you want to fill us in about that, about ACE's involvement. 

Jon Fansmith [00:33:05] And I think people are probably familiar with this issue. We, if you want to go a little bit deeper on the issue, we did an earlier podcast with John Aguilar from Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities more in depth on the issue. But the big sort of recent news is that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear three consolidated cases about DACA and the treatment of students in the DACA program. ACE on Friday... I'm trying to remember what the date was, but--. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:33:39] After my birthday.

Jon Fansmith [00:33:40] That's right. I think the 5th, maybe? Filed a brief on behalf of ourselves and 43 other organizations essentially asserting the points that we've made all along, that these students both need clarity, and certainty as to their status, and that in addition, that the administration's arguments for terminating the protections that were sent to them exceeded their authority and the Administrative Procedures Act. This is again, I mentioned this is something we've been following for a while. In September, ACE organized a letter in coordination with a bunch of other associations that had over 600 institutions sign on in support of DACA students asking Congress to do something. I think that's that's worth pointing out. We're coming up on two years since the administration rescinded these protections and there's still been no legislative solution, even though, as you know Lorelle, this is...the Dreamers have incredible bipartisan-- 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:34:41] Incredible bipartisan support around the country in terms of voters really wanting to see these students succeed. They came over when they were young. Many of them are enrolling in college. They had-- 

Jon Fansmith [00:34:54] Serving in the military. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:34:56] Serving in the military. They have the ability to contribute to our economy and our society and yet they're in this limbo and I just can't imagine what that feels like for these students and their families. 

Jon Fansmith [00:35:06] Well, now you think about two years for someone who's studying in college, that's a massive portion of your time where you're hopefully remaining in school and attempting to complete your degree. You worry, of course, about the students who may see this as a barrier to completing. So, frustratingly, the Supreme Court will take this up. Even when they return the decision, they'll hear arguments that the next term, we're a year away at the earliest from hearing a decision. So, again, that's one more year for these students who are going to be in limbo. It's frustrating. You would obviously hope Congress would act. ACE and our members certainly would hope. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:35:45] They're not really moving. 

Jon Fansmith [00:35:46] They seem to be...Not acting is kind of what this Congress has been doing. So, yeah, but we, of course, will keep our listeners updated on this. And for more information and updates and as well as to read a copy of the brief itself, you can go to ACE's web site and review all that material, and we'll have links on the podcast web site, too. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:36:07] Acenet.edu. Our newly designed Web site. 

Jon Fansmith [00:36:10] Our very beautiful Web site. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:36:11] Check it out. 

Jon Fansmith [00:36:12] With new headshots of all of us. I was making fun of Jon Turk's head shot last week. I don't know if that actually made it into the episode or not. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:36:20] I don't remember.

Jon Fansmith [00:36:20] Remember, I know it's unfair because his actually looks far better than mine. But, you know, I got to try and hold [crosstalk] check a little bit. Yeah, well, we hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we did, both from the conversation and just the fun we have making it. If you have questions or comments or feedback, we'd love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at podcast@acenet.edu. That's podcast@acenet.edu. And you can find additional episodes of our podcast, as well as all the links to the information both about our guest Julie Park's work and the work we mentioned the resources around DACA, on our Web site acenet.edu/podcast. As always, you can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Google podcasts or any other place you subscribe to podcasts. I'm not sure I even got that last one right. 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:37:16] I know. There's so many places. Find us there. 

Jon Fansmith [00:37:17] Stitcher… There's a lot of places, right? Wherever you buy your podcast, someone said on something I was listening to and like, who buys their podcast? 

Lorelle Espinosa [00:37:24] It's free. Ours is free. 

Jon Fansmith [00:37:26] So Audrey's urging me to say goodbye. So thank you again for listening and have a great rest of your day wherever you are. ​


About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page​.​

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