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Univ. of Maryland slammed for separating Asian students from 'students of color' in graphic

A university graphic meant to share admissions data of underrepresented students has sparked debate after it grouped Asian students with white students.
The University of Maryland, College Park.
The University of Maryland, College Park.Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The University of Maryland is facing backlash after an administrative graphic separated students into two categories — “students of color, minus Asians” and “white or Asian students.” 

The graphic was part of a presentation by university President Darryll Pines, who was sharing the incoming class’ diversity data with the student body senate. The school says it intended to highlight students who have been underrepresented on campus. Data on the slide spanned a five-year period, including information like UMD’s total number of applicants, with average SAT scores and grade point averages. 

But a point of contention for some students and a larger audience on Twitter is the race breakdown of yearly incoming first-years. 

Numbers listed under the “students of color, minus Asians” category were meant to represent the students with the lowest historical presence at the school, and it did include some Pacific Islanders, the university said in a statement provided to NBC Asian America. 

“The data in this specific section was intended to show student populations that have historically represented 11 percent or less of our campus community -- Black/African Americans, American Indians or Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and Hispanics,” the statement said. 

Students said the graphic perpetuates ideas like the model minority myth, which claims that Asians are inherently successful and close to whiteness. It also erases distinctions between groups within the Asian American and Pacific Islander umbrella, many of which are generally lower-income and underserved, they told The Diamondback.

“[The university uses] us when they want to be diverse, and then not when they don’t want to,” Anish Kakarla, a UMD student and president of the South Asian Student Association, told the student newspaper The Diamondback.

As the debate continues online, the university clarified that it does include Asians when describing students of color in data or otherwise.

“When we refer to students of color, we include Asian students and Asian Americans,” the university said.