Live Blog: UBC “Too Asian” Panel Nov. 25, 2010

My attempt at live blogging the “Too Asian” panel. Sorry it’s ghetto, just refresh the page.

Panelists: Dr. Kerry Jang, Professor, UBC Psychiatry and Vancouver City Councillor
Dr. Henry Yu, Associate Professor, Dept. of History, UBC and Principal pro tem, St. John’s College, UBC)
Dr. Candis Callison, Assistant Professor, UBC School of Journalism
Elysa Hogg, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Arts
William Tao, Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Arts

[Square brackets denotes when I’m speaking.]

Jang: “I didn’t know how to react.” …”How does it make you feel and how does this impact the university and what we do here?” “That article, for the first time, did not make me feel safe” to discuss the issue of race.

[Introductions done; each panelist gets to speak. UBC VP Students Brian Sullivan and AMS VP Admin Ekaterina Dovjenko gave introductions.]

Yu: “When I read that article…”Too Asian?” what does that even mean?” “Usually journalists say, don’t bury the lede…what they were leading with in some sense is a strange idea that a unversity could be too Asian.”

“Asians were cheap. They could do more with less.” That’s a threat. “That was basically the basic Anti-Asian politics that helped build British Columbia.” [years ago]

Yu says he felt sadness when reading the article. Yu says he hid his grades. “We face the legacies of a long history of white supremacy….we had a KKK here in Shaugnessy, I don’t know if you know that.”

“Canada is a different place than it was in 1967….this article hearkens back to an older Canada….it’s also a hurtful article for a lot of people. If you just arrived from Asia…that’s not the person who’s going to feel hurt the most.” It’s the person who tried really hard in high school to fit in. “Then every so often someone calls you ‘rice.’

“But it’s the feeling of, ‘What else do you want me to do?'”

“I’ve seen online an amazing amount of energy” as people try to express how they feel about the article. “No one reads MacLeans….they’re not going to diversify their newsroom….no one had a problem with [the Maclean’s article] because their newsroom is not a diverse place.”

Callison: Commenting about the article itelf, and on ethics and journalism.

“Notion of framing….cognitive shorthands that we use to describe something.”

The article started out with some girls who refused to be identified. “Usually you don’t give anonymity to sources unless their life is in danger….right away that is one flag.”

Last half of the article sounds like a dialogue. “There’s a real disconnect between the kinds of evidence that they’re marshalling and” framing.

“Maclean’s is not ‘the media.'”….”You might say it fits into the ‘neo-conservative'” style of journalism…..”Media ownership is an issue….It’s coming from a certain viewpoint, it’s coming from a certain way of asking questions….”

Maclean’s staff demographic: 30 new hires, out of that, 15 were women, ethnic: 4.

Callison on ethics and journalism: “I wouldn’t go far as Henry in saying that Maclean’s is dead…yes, Maclean’s is suffering from the same kind of business model…that is pervasive throughout print publications.”

“Ethics…is about the relationship between audience and journalism.”

“As we go forward in terms of media change and ethnical observations…it’s also how to tell global stories to a global public…a public who is rapidly being able to hold publications like MacLean’s to account.”

Elysa Hogg: “I guess I’m part of that white folk….I’ve never felt this ‘too asian’ thing we’ve got going on.”

[Too Asian website Hogg referred to]

“What are the issues we’re not dealing with?….Do we really have a language barrier on our campus?” Are we addressing that? If we aren’t: “I think it’s a failure on our part to engage with the campus life.”

As a student, Hogg wants to look at this honestly: In Canada we don’t discuss race.

William Tao: Believes the article misrepresents our university

Why not mention Persians and other groups, since they are technically Asians?

“My perspective probably would have ruined their entire story.”

The article creates a false dichotomy.” Article is an attack on one group: Chinese. “Maclean’s is forcing the belief that [Asian immigrants] are becoming a threat to the Canadian identity.”

Assimilation is associated with partying, drinking, not studying.

“Oftentimes, we ourselves….are the biggest perpetrators of the ‘Too Asian’ stereotype….these types of hypocritical activities must come to an end” as they perpetuate the stereotype. “They might see us as sea of black hair and brown eyes.”

Sullivan: Quotes Margaret Wente, columnist from Globe and Mail:

“The growing Asian presence on North American campuses is a big story – culturally, demographically, politically. It’s also a story that pits some of our most cherished values against each other. We believe that our public universities should broadly reflect society. We also believe they should be meritocratic. But what if those two values collide?”

Jang: “When it comes to admissions, and whether it’s the electoral process…of course there [can] always be improvements.” But UBC is doing a good job. “I’ve seen students…they all come with a fantastic set of skills”, no matter what colour they are. “There is no special interest.”

Yu: “Universities in the 1960s…there were very few women and very few non-whites.” They were meritocratic in judging useful skills, and those skills were usually people who were already at UBC. If Wente says that Canada has always been meritocratic, she’s wrong. Ivy League debate in article — it was very difficult to tell that these schools were capping Asian enrollment at 15%. We’ve created in Canada a certain definition of meritocracy. “It reinforces inequities historically….if you have an unfair system, making it fair is good, but you can’t just discount what happened in the first half.”


QUESTION: “ROB”: When he walked away from the article, got the sense of what do we do now. Worked in UBC housing, saw cliques form amongst international students.

“The tone of the panel” is that the article has no basis?

Callison: Tone of the panel is light because the content is so discomforting. The issue [we’re talking about] is the way that the question got framed. ‘Too Asian’ did not frame the issue the right way. It’s about framing. What if we started with the anecdote of the ‘you took my place at university’ rather than the two party girls?

Jang: “It was seen by a lot of folks in my age group” as something from the past. People used to say “You’re lucky you got into university.” “No it’s not,” I worked hard.  “If you don’t laugh, you’re never going to get through.”

QUESTION: “JACK”: We thought this forum was not to be a defence of the university, but what the university is going to do re: diversity on this campus?

Hogg: Idea Jack posed re: randomized groupings in classrooms is a good idea to get over the clique issue.

Yu: You can’t get into UBC w/o speaking English. Just because you don’t hear someone speaking English doesn’t mean they don’t speak English. The idea that English is the only way in which people can interact is a bad model. Speaking other languages is a good thing.

Tao: Let’s start today and meet someone you traditionally would not meet. His parents told him stereotypes about East Indians, he got past that, took a step out of his “normalized boundary” and did that.

QUESTION: “Arshy”: If you think that no one has encountered those feelings of race, you’re not listening. The article discussed race, as Canadians don’t often do. Do you think it’s better that the article had never been written?

Jang: “Canadians know better, Canadians do better research than that….to have that kind of sloppy journalism is wrong, but to have that question asked” is good.

[Prof mentions there is a class going on now; laughs from the audience.]

Callison: “The problem is when you set it up as “too Asian”….it sets a kind of tone for the discussion.” Agrees there is a need for discussion and that there is anxiety about admissions out there. “But by setting it up so that that monolithic group…is on the defensive immediately, it doesn’t move the conversation that needs to happen forward.”

[Brian Sullivan talks about discussion being held at UBC, offer to be part of focus groups to discuss multiculturalism. Panel done. Thanks!]

*Clarification 4:28pm: I want to add to Jang’s answer to “Arshy”‘s comment. He did say that he is glad the article was written, but that “Canadians know better.”

Posted on November 25, 2010, in Blog, Journalism, Post-Secondary and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thanks for posting! I was unable to attend but wish I did. Good to hear some intelligent discussion around the article.

  1. Pingback: question: who *am* i? « ENGL222 – The Gum Thief

  2. Pingback: Some updates on the “Too Asian?” Discourse | ubc equity ambassadors

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « inward / onward

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