Asian Pacific Americans and Higher Education Issues
University Group Policy Paper

Table of Contents:

I. Executive Summary
II. Representation in the University Community
A. Students
B. Staff
C. Faculty
III. Asian American Studies
IV. Student Services

Executive Summary

Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the United States, but are often not acknowledged as a minority group. Often seen as the “model minority,” Asian Americans are viewed as not having problems or special needs. In addition, Asian Americans are also seen as a homogeneous group, which hides the diversity of Asian Americans in terms of socioeconomic status, ethnic background, and nativity. These national issues have created an image of invisibility for many Asian Americans. For years, Asian Americans have demanded visibility and voice in many social arenas such as government, entertainment, business, and education.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the Asian American undergraduate student population has grown considerably over the past five years. Like national perceptions, Asian American students are not seen as a minority group. Students for the past ten years have lobbied to be recognized on campus as a student population with special needs that need to be met. As a result of students’ repeated requests, the Asian/Pacific American Students Affairs Committee was formed in January of 1998 in order to “consider the issues unique to Asian/Pacific American students’ at Penn and to develop specific and concrete recommendations to resolve them.” The Committee issued its response in May 1998 and will be further referred to as the Madden Report in the following critique of this University Policy report.

As part of our ASAM 290: APAs and Higher Education Issues class, we were asked to evaluate the Madden Report and issue our comments and further recommendations to the report. We contacted Marissa Halm (Admissions Regional Director), Meeta Kumar (CAPS staff psychologist), and Rosane Rocher (ASAM Program Director) for updated information to evaluate the progress made since the issue of the Madden Report in January of 1998. In addition, we reflected on our own personal experiences as APA students in order to form further recommendations.

We addressed the three sections of the Madden report: Representation in the University Community, Asian American Studies, and Student Life and Services. We evaluated each section on its strengths and weaknesses and offered additional recommendations in order to make the report more comprehensive. We made the following conclusions from the Madden Report:

The Madden Report pointed out problems on admissions, faculty, and staff, but did not address specific measures to evaluate and address diverse APA needs.

Although the Madden Report did address the national importance of Asian American Studies at Penn, the Report did not issue enough recommendations in order to further the establishment of the Program on campus into a department and major. In addition, no evaluation was given about the uncertain future of the Program.

The Madden Report mentions that access to resources and outreach to APA students is contingent on staff and faculty who are sensitive to APA needs. However, the report fails to mention how to accomplish this goal.

Although the Madden Report was a good initial study addressing the needs on APAs, it lacks specifics and substantial recommendations on how to address the problems. We feel that further study must be conducted. We made the following summary of recommendations that should be enacted:

Representation in the University Community

Asian American Studies

Representation in the University Community


Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) accounted for 25% of the undergraduate class of 2003. According to the Madden Report in 1998, "over a five year time span (between the Fall of 1986 and the Fall of 1991), the proportion of Asians increased from 10% of the entering Freshman class to 22% and has varied between 21 and 23% in the five following years. The APA population is comprised of many different ethnicities and experiences that are characterized by geographic region, immigrant or refugee status, language, family environment and acculturation concerns.

Recommendation: Penn's goals should be to effectively and sensitively educate the increasingly diverse student population. The diversity of the APA population must be recognized and the data on them disaggregated whenever possible.

According to the Madden Report, APA students represent a consistently larger share of applicants than they are of matriculating students and a larger share of applicants than they are of admitted students since the Fall of 1995.

Recommendation: A committee should be established to monitor the percentage of qualified Asian American applicants admitted by the University. The Office of Admissions should continue to monitor the rate of Asian American admissions admitted and there should also be a continued and aggressive effort to educate the admissions staff on the diverse needs and experiences of APAs.

According to the Daily Pennsylvanian on October 28, 1997, "Fund initiative bolsters minority matriculation: University officials must now deal with the issue of minority retention." Penn released financial initiatives in Fall 1996, "to increase the presence of underrepresented minorities on campus, monitor members of those minority groups that have matriculated to Penn, and address the pressing issue of student retention." Although there has been effort by Penn to increase minority enrollment and retention, the focus of this initiative has mainly been on African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans.

Recommendation: Penn should make an effort to address and differentiate the characteristic demographics in the Asian American population. There should be a continued effort to address the differences in socioeconomic status and representation in the Asian American community and these results should be included in the initiative for minority representation, retention, and matriculation.

We applaud the efforts by the Minority Scholars Weekend committee on improving and monitoring the progress of minority recruitment at Penn. Additionally, the recognition of socio-economically disadvantaged APA students from the Philadelphia area that are included in the Minority Scholars Program should be continued.

Recommendation: Initiatives such as recruiting disadvantaged APAs should be continued and there should be additional efforts to research and target the different experiences of APAs for Minority Scholars Weekend.

Additionally, President Rodin's proposal for the University to earmark $5 million for the recruitment and retention of under-represented minority faculty and students, should include Asian Americans, and not just blacks and Hispanics.

Recommendation: Minority recruitment should consider the wide number of experiences and ethnicities with the Asian American community and Penn should actively recruit members of underrepresented groups within the Asian American population.

There should be an effort to also monitor and analyze Asian American graduate admission within the College. The Office of Admissions should make an effort to increase Asian American representation within higher education, (i.e. University faculty and administration). In order for these goals to be met, there should be increased effort to map out and address Asian American graduate options and matriculation. According to the California State University report, "fewer Asians and Filipinos than students in general major in education, fine and applied arts, public affairs, and social sciences."

Recommendation: As a result, Penn graduate programs, in which APA's are underrepresented, should implement programs to recruit APAs. There should be outreach efforts to incorporate these programs within University-wide minority representation and retention programs.

Penn lacks a significant number of Asian American role models among the ladder-rank faculty, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. A parallel problem exists at the senior administrative staff level. Asian Americans, for the most part, are not visible to students among the ranking academic administrative positions and at the senior management level.

Recommendation: Penn should develop approaches to establish stronger, supportive relationships with APA students, especially outside the classroom, and find ways to increase the involvement of APA students in extracurricular, social and cultural activities.

In considering the diverse needs and experiences of APAs, Penn should establish an Asian American student and Family Support System. This support system should take into account the role of immigration, socioeconomic status, and the role of family within the APA community. Penn should realize that in order to increase minority enrollment, retention, and graduation for APAs, specific APA trends needs to be established and implemented. By informing APA students and families of the needs, unique experiences, and support events of the University, Penn will ultimately increase the quality and representation of the APA population and the surrounding University community. Penn can implement an APA support network by maintaining regular correspondence with family and faculty and also publicize APA events and support groups to families and students.

Asian American's students’ portrayal of self and community are invariably defined by the campus community, home environment, and ethnic culture. Therefore, the term Asian American is different for each individual and Penn therefore should acknowledge these differences by instituting outreach-counseling services on campus and residential programs.

Recommendation: We appreciate and acknowledge the addition of Meeta Kumar to the Penn as a specialist in Asian American concerns. However, Penn should continue to proactively pursue additional staff to attend to the diverse psychological needs of Asian Americans. In addition, there should be programs or orientations addressing these problems that involve the student and appropriate family members.

Despite the fact that Asian American students comprise 25% of the undergraduate student population, their needs go largely unrecognized and unacknowledged by this institution. As perceived in model minority terms, Asian American students are thought to have no need for special academic counseling or other assistance.

Recommendation: There should be an effort to study and analyze the needs and differences between Asian American students and International students. Education experiences and geographical regions may separate the Asian populations.
According to the Madden report in 1998, there were only 15 Asian American administrators at Penn. Although the report mentioned the need for more administrators, an in-depth study should be implemented to address the training and growth of Asian Americans within higher education administration at Penn.

Penn should investigate the barriers to advancing to higher administrative and faculty position by providing effective staff training and development programs to increase the numbers of Asian Americans in staff job categories and areas in which they are underrepresented. As established earlier in this report, the future of Asian American representation within the multicultural university requires a supportive rapport with administrators and students. By recruiting and training Asian American administrators and faculty, Penn will be prepared to direct, develop, and address Asian American student concerns and improve student/faculty discourse and interaction.

Recommendation: Penn should recruit and retain more APAs in student services and admissions positions. There should be a continued effort to develop a network among community alumni and Asian American professional organizations.

We realize that each year Penn establishes goals for the coming year and by continuing dialogue with the appropriate deans and student service administrators, including areas such as the Excellence of Students, Excellence of Faculty, and Diversity of Faculty and Students.
According to President Rodin's response to the Madden Report in 1998. "In this way we and they are able to track success in recruiting and retaining a diverse group of faculty and students. These goals and accomplishments are part of a continuing dialogue between the deans and

Recommendation: In continuing these goals to establish excellence both in student services/concerns and University administration, Penn should conduct formal reviews on the APA staff and accessibility to students, both undergraduate and graduate. There should be an annual review to establish whether APA staff members are qualified to help APA students and whether they have appropriate training, accessibility, and interests.


Faculty mentors are a critical part of a student's academic and intellectual life in college. For some students of color, it can mean the difference between choosing one major over another. Thus, having faculty of color in diverse departments can be of tremendous importance.

Recommendation: Therefore, it is important for APA faculty to be accessible to students and there should be outreach in forms of listserves, webpages, and seminars that target and foster the implementation of discourse between APA faculty and students. Penn should institute a thorough study of the policies and practices regarding salaries, promotions, and tenure in academic units to determine if current policies and practices disproportionately disadvantage and/or discriminate against Asian faculty. Every effort must be made to establish and implement an equitable set of procedures with particular attention to documenting subjective criteria used to hinder promotion and tenure.

Asian American Studies

Asian American Studies is an integral part of the curriculum here at the University of Pennsylvania. Asian American Studies and other ethnic studies courses are necessary in order to contradict the Eurocentric curriculum that is prevalent in the other courses offered at Penn. Without these courses, students would be given the perspective that people of color hold no importance in American society when in fact; people of color have made major contributions to American society and history. Because of Asian American Studies, APA students will feel that they are American instead of being perceived as foreigners as they are given a sense of identity and feel empowered. In addition, students other than APAs are also given the opportunity to learn about Asian American issues and concerns, which can only enrich their lives and learning experience.

When the Madden Report studied the Asian American Studies Program, it made one recommendation for the program. The report adequately summarized the history of the program’s inception; information gathered was accurate and complete. However, the report lacked force and the one recommendation was weak at best. While the Madden Report did recognize the national importance of the Asian American Studies Program, the report did not provide any recommendations that would further its prestige and importance as one of the few Asian American Studies programs outside of California.

“There is currently not a large ‘unmet’ demand for [Asian American] courses,” the Madden report states. Asian American courses are in high demand and there is a need to increase the number of courses for Asian American Studies by hiring more faculty, not just one more history professor. Of the two requirements (ASAM 001 and 002), these courses enrolled 25 and 22 people respectively for the fall of 1999. In addition, ASAM 009: Writing about the Indian Experience, had the maximum enrollment of 18 along with a waiting list. The report mentioned that three of the six classes in the fall of 1998 were closed due to maximum enrollment. These numbers show that there is demand for these courses especially the courses that are offered regularly. Courses, which tend to have smaller numbers of students are the more recent courses (ASAM 224 and ASAM 290). This is due to lack of awareness from students about these courses. By increasing the number of tenured-track faculty, there can be more courses offered to students to meet the demand.

Because there are only three faculty for the Asian American Studies Program, many are taught by adjunct faculty. As a result, the courses will vary year to year and students do not know what courses will be taught. The Asian American Studies Program must depend on proposal submissions from adjunct faculty who would like to teach an Asian American Studies course and the Program has little control over the variety of classes taught. For example, in the spring of 1999, ASAM 003: Introduction to Asian American History, was taught by an adjunct faculty, and the class was one of the most popular classes offered. However, since an adjunct faculty taught the class, the class was not offered this year. There is currently a search for a history professor by the History Department to teach an Asian American History course, which we applaud, but the search has been long overdue. Classes offered by adjunct faculty are needed, but without more tenured-track faculty, important Asian American Studies courses will not be taught which takes away from the full learning experience. By increasing the number of tenured-track faculty in the Asian American Studies Program, courses can be offered on a regular basis. Not only are tenured faculty needed to solidify course offerings, but to gain power structure in the university for the ASAM department.

With only three faculty (ONLY one tenured faculty), there is a lack of permanence for the Asian American Studies Program. The two tenured-track faculty will be up for review within a few years and at the same time. If one or both of the tenured-track faculty are not tenured, that leaves only one permanent faculty to teach in the Asian American Studies Program. This does not ensure permanence of the Program in the future. The Madden Report mentioned an establishment of a major in the future, but a major cannot be established without faculty. Therefore, it is imperative that more faculty be hired.

Recommendation: Increase the Asian American Studies Program funding and support from Penn administration to expand class offerings. Ensure that the Program receives priority status as it is a new program and requires more support than older, more established programs.

Recommendation: Hire more Asian American faculty in order to ensure the permanence of the Asian American Studies Program.

The Madden Report suggested that the Asian American Studies Program be housed in a larger department in order strengthen the minor. However, the American Studies Program has recently been reduced to a program in the Department of History. The Asian American Studies Program would not be a good fit for the history department since the ASAM program is interdisciplinary. However, the Asian American Studies Program would be a good fit for an Ethnic Studies Department, which could also include African-American Studies, Chicano Studies, and Native American Studies. We applaud the Madden Report for considering what would be the best for the program. However, no official recommendation to look into these concerns was made. It is imperative that a committee be formed in order to examine the benefits of forming an Ethnic Studies Department and housing the four programs under one department.

Recommendation: Form a committee to research and examine the benefits of forming and Ethnic Studies Department.

Currently, there is no multicultural requirement included in the General Requirements for any of the schools. However, as stated before, taking an ethnic studies course can only enrich one’s life in the present and the future. Diversity and multiculturalism is becoming more important in the work place and other social settings as the population continues to become diverse. Students may be hesitant to take an ethnic studies course if they do not belong to that ethnic group and as a result, students will never realize the rewards of understanding the dynamics of diversity. As a result, a multi-cultural General Requirement should be included as part of the General Requirement in all schools (College of Arts & Sciences, Wharton, Engineering, and Nursing). Students would be required to take one class in African American Studies, Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies, or Native American Studies. This will necessitate more courses to be offered that will benefit the Asian American Studies Program and perhaps create a program in Chicano Studies and Native American Studies. Learning about multiculturalism will help to eliminate racial ignorance in our society and a multicultural requirement is a very reasonable recommendation.

Recommendation: Establish a Multicultural General Education Requirement

Student Life and Services

The Asian Pacific American students at the University of Pennsylvania face a variety of issues that stem from a diversity of socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and present established cultural stereotypes which affect the performance and experience of the students in college. Confronted with the “Model Minority stereotype,” Asian Pacific American Students carry the pressures and expectations of being exceptional students, particularly in fields relating to science and math, and are seen as students with little or no academic and social problems. As a result, those APA students who do encounter academic and/or social problems are hidden and do not receive necessary help or guidance. Furthermore, the low number of students who pursue other disciplines besides math and science in graduate schools further indicates the detrimental effects of such a stereotype. With additional culturally-based pressures from family to carry out filial duties, APA Students are caught between two cultures which affect their social and academic performances as well as choice of study. To provide for the diverse needs of the Asian Pacific American student body, administrators, faculty, and staff members of the University of Pennsylvania must have some proper understanding of this body of students in order that appropriate outreach and counseling is given to them.

According to the Madden Report, many Asian Pacific American students, when encountering difficulties in academics or other matters, personal or social, tend to not seek help or have open communication with faculty and staff members over personal concerns. The issues of trust and comfort are crucial and Asian Pacific American students will only approach those faculty and staff members who exude such qualities. It is important that faculty and staff members be understanding of the Asian Pacific American needs and provide effective personal and academic counseling. The number of Asian Pacific American faculty and staff available on campus is relevant to this concern (as addressed in the first section of the report), for Asian Pacific American students will seek the assistance of an Asian Pacific American faculty and staff member over a non-Asian Pacific American faculty and staff. The Madden Report stressed the importance of recruitment of more APA administrators, faculty, and staff who are involved in student services as an initial step of resolving this problem. Given that recruiting efforts for APA faculty and staff is a time-involving task and the accessibility and availability of already existing APA faculty and staff may be of concern, then it is important that appropriate training sessions addressing the needs of APA students be given to other non-APA administrators, faculty, and staff.

Recommendation: Administrators, faculty and staff involved in admissions and other student services should be trained on the “Model Minority Myth” and receive appropriate training in order to be sensitive to APA needs and concerns.

This training should extend to all faculty and staff who interact with APAs, including residential advisors and graduate fellows. Since training ALL administrators, faculty, and staff may be difficult to accomplish, training should be given to the directors of most departments or services who work with APA students and descend internally within each department and service. In addition to having professional development training from outside sources, some of the training should involve current APA students who will act as “real” examples of present insufficient methods of counseling and outreach. Follow up training and evaluation reports should continue after such training so that APA student needs are addressed and given proper attention.

Recommendation: To initiate the relationship of an APA student with an APA faculty or staff, a form of minority faculty mentor/mentee should be created and be required for incoming APA and minority freshmen.

To combat early indications of problems in APA freshmen students, APA freshmen should be matched with an APA faculty or staff member in student services who will serve as a mentor/advisor. This faculty or staff member will be knowledgeable in the number of available services for APA students and provide for any general guidance and assistance during the APA student’s freshman year and up and through senior year. Since the number of APA faculty and staff is limited and many are not accessible by the APA student body as mentioned earlier, ethnic graduate advisors may be used as another form of creating such a relationship. These individuals should be aware of or specialize in APA, Chicano, Native American, and AFAM issues. These ethnic graduate advisors can be offered to other minority individuals as well and serve the same purpose.

Recommendation: A committee should be created, if not already done so, composed of faculty and students who will address APA concerns and needs and ensure that such concerns and needs are met.

To ensure that the needs of Asian Pacific students are known and met by the broader University community, there must be constant communication between the APA student community and high administration board. A permanent committee which focuses on APA concerns, composed of faculty and students, will meet regularly with the president and attend other meetings which have any bearing on or affect the APA student population on whole. This committee will serve as the ongoing voice and ears for the APA student population, which despite what numbers and percentages represent, tend to be invisible and voiceless on campus.

As mentioned in the Madden Report, the University of Pennsylvania does provide for various APA needs through Counseling and Psychological services and through the Greenfield Intercultural Center. Both resources have given outreach to a large part of the APA student population, however, further outreach must be given. It is felt that such services are not used by a large portion of the APA student population or are unknown by the undergraduate APA student body. The Greenfield Intercultural Center, which is the main center for ethnic groups, is situated off campus which results in a lack of visibility and accessibility. In addition to educating administrators, faculty and staff about available services for APA students, the services must be made visible to the APA student body.

Recommendation: To concentrate the available resources for APA students and make visible one central access center, an Asian Pacific American Student resource center should be created.

The resource center will be a permanent location for APA students as well as non-APA students that provides for academic and social needs. The resource center will provide venues for involvement with the campus and outside community for APA students which will enrich the college experience. As a permanent place for seeking information for academic and social concerns, the resource center will be a comfortable area for seeking help if and when needed. When faculty and staff cannot provide for an APA student’s needs, he/she can seek assistance of their own at the center.

The Madden Report addressed the importance of faculty involvement in Student Life and Services through the increase of APA faculty and staff on large and the importance of appropriate training for such faculty and staff. This is a good initial approach, however, for actual concrete solutions to improve APA student life and services, the Madden Report lacked. For successful outreach to the APA student population there should be more visibility and voice. This can be achieved through a permanent resource center, through the creation of a APA student affairs committee, through appropriate training of administrators, faculty and staff who will provide the voice to students, and for the establishment of ethnic mentors/mentee so that the outreach will be continuous. The recommendations above should be considered as viable solutions.


The Madden Report is a good initial step towards understanding the concerns of Asian Pacific American students at the University of Pennsylvania. However, additional studies are necessary and as students, we have analyzed the Report further and listed the components that are lacking. We hope our recommendations are taken seriously into consideration by the Penn administration. By implementing these solutions, Penn will be serving the needs of 25% of the student population which currently, these needs are not being met. These recommendations will improved the general welfare of Asian Pacific Students at Penn.

Stephanie Hwang - W’01 -
Richard Le - C’01 -
Tiffany Nguyen - C’00 -