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Groups rally for admissions data to “˜Count Me In’

By Edward Truong

May 31, 2007 9:44 p.m.

In order to highlight some of the issues faced by certian ethnic groups in regard to access to higher education, student and state leaders are hoping to introduce policies for university admission data to include more Asian groups.

Members of the Asian Pacific Coalition promoted the Count Me In campaign and State Assemblyman Ted Lieu’s, D-Los Angeles, Assembly Bill 295 in a press conference held on Thursday.

The coalition is made up of 21 Asian American-Pacific Islander student organizations such as the Association of Hmong Students, the Pacific Islands Student Association and United Khmer Students.

Lieu’s bill calls for state agencies that collect demographic data on ethnic origin, not including the University of California, to further separate categories for Asian and Pacific Islander groups.

In addition to the existing groups of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese, agencies would include 10 more Asian American groups such as Bangladeshi, Fijian and Hmong. The proposed divisions would mirror the method used by the United States Census.

While the enrollment numbers for some Asian ethnic groups are low and access to resources are limited, organizers of the campaign said such issues are ignored because the groups are widely identified as “Asian” and assumed to be academically and financially successful.

The Asian Pacific Coalition officials hope the campaign will expand the efforts of the bill to the UC and pressure administrators to disaggregate the collection of racial data in admissions.

Those groups currently fall under the “Other Asian” category, which leaders said ignores the challenges in obtaining a college education for many in those communities.

Many groups are overlooked and thus face barriers because they are “considered within the “˜Other Asian’ category,” said Alex Lowe, a member of the coalition.

He cited the low admittance rates for Pacific Islanders ““ 23 students out of 11,000 in 2006.

“It has been a difficult struggle for many of the communities,” said Candice Shikai, director of the coalition.

Eric Yang, a member of the Association of Hmong Students, said the “model minority myth” that all Asian Americans do not face injustice or struggles is a “huge misrepresentation” for some ethnic groups.

He said 26 students at UCLA identify as Hmong, but the figure was compiled by his own organization because no official data exists.

“There is a reason why the number of Hmong students at UCLA is so small and it is only by disaggregating the data that we will start to understand the question of why,” Yang said.

The campaign also called for establishing Pacific Islander as a separate racial category and funding outreach projects for underprivileged and under-represented communities.

Studies done by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center show that Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong groups have below-average education levels.

A member of the Pacific Islands Student Association, Christine Santos, said having a separate racial category is necessary because it is difficult to provide accurate admissions data when many ethnic groups are combined into one category.

She said that when using admissions data to contact students for outreach purposes, people have previously had to “resort to guessing through last names.”

Sam Liu, a spokesman from Lieu’s office, said the assemblyman’s bill would ensure that the data collected by the state would “correctly identify each current community’s needs.”

He said there would be a cost involved for the state but did not cite an exact amount.

Organizers of the campaign said they have distributed postcards this quarter to garner support from the campaign and have collected over 1,500 signatures so far.

With reports from Jennifer Mishory, Bruin staff.

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