Speaking at a press conference at City Hall Wednesday, Karen Sun, executive director of Chinese Canadian National Council said Toronto’s reputation will be "tarnished" if city council doesn’t demand an apology from Maclean’s magazine.
The press conference was in support of city councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina) who has raised a motion calling for council to “disassociate itself from the views expressed by Maclean’s . . . and request that Maclean’s apologize unreservedly for the negative stereotyping of the Asian-Canadian community”
The article titled “Too Asian?” was published in Maclean’s last month, in their popular edition, ranking of Canadian universities. The edition contained many articles dealing with university life; education, athletics and social activities. One issue they believed needed attention was that some non-Asian students are avoiding universities they feel are ‘Asian’. According to the article in Maclean’s, “An ‘Asian’ school has come to mean one that is so academically focused that some students feel they can no longer compete or have fun.”
The Maclean’s article title comes from an American organization, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in which they explored the issue with an expert panel discussion called “Too Asian?” at an annual meeting in 2006.
In the Maclean’s article, they state, “It’s a term being used in some U.S. academic circles to describe a phenomenon that’s become such a cause for concern to university admissions officers and high school guidance counsellors that several elite universities to the south have faced scandals in recent years over limiting Asian applicants and keeping the numbers of white students artificially high.”
The article points out that the scandals seen south of the border aren’t likely to be seen here in Canada, because universities here accept students based only on merit. However “that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.”
Maclean’s sites Canadian high school guidance counsellors as saying Asian students who are top performers want to go to universities with “international profiles specializing in math, science and business: U of T, UBC and the University of Waterloo.” However, “White students, by contrast, are more likely to choose universities and build their school lives around social interaction, athletics and self-actualization—and, yes, alcohol.”
“When the two styles collide, the result is separation rather than integration.”
The article concludes, “Newer, fresher ways are needed to help pry the ethnic ghettos open so everyone hangs out together. Or at least they have the chance to. The white kids may not ﬁnd it’s too Asian after all.”
In response to the outcries about the article, Maclean’s has since changed the title from “Too Asian?” to “The enrollment controversy.”
They have also released a statement saying, “…comments we have seen on the Internet and in other media have suggested that by publishing this article, Maclean’s views Canadian universities as “Too Asian,” or that we hold a negative view of Asian students…Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The statement goes on to say, “We find the trend toward race-based admission policies in some American schools deplorable, as do many of our readers. Our article notes that Canadian universities select students regardless of race or creed. That, in our view, is the best and only acceptable approach: merit should be the sole criteria for entrance to higher education in Canada, and universities should always give preference to our best and brightest regardless of cultural background.”
“Through hard work, talent and ambition, Asian students have been highly successful in earning places in Canada’s institutions of higher learning. They, like all of our high achievers, deserve respect and admiration. Every one of them is a source of pride to their fellow Canadians.”
Maclean’s finished the release with, “We expected that it would be provocative, but we did not intend to cause offence.”
At the press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Karen Sun said, “It doesn’t cost the city anything to support this kind of motion to reaffirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion but I do think it will tarnish the city’s reputation if this motion doesn’t pass, as a city that uses ‘Diversity our Strength’ as its motto…I think there is a cost to not supporting this.”
Layton said the issue shouldn’t take much time and won’t prevent core services from being discussed. His motion was seconded by councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale.) To get his motion debated, Layton needs two-thirds of council to support the bid.