Toronto city councillor Mike Layton’s first motion at city council was to ask Maclean’s magazine to “apologize unreservedly” for its “negative stereotyping of the Asian-Canadian community”. He says it is not an unreasonable request. Councillor Adam Vaughan agreed with Layton, saying the city council should discuss the issue, given that many students live in the councillors’ wards.
“Toronto has always been a leader in ensuring we respect our multiculturalism,” Layton said. “It’s in our motto.”
Layton asked fellow city councillors to disregard the controversial views expressed in the article, which includes the suggestion that students of Asian heritage are preventing opportunities to non-Asian students at Canadian universities.
It is no surprise that Maclean’s should publish an article questioning whether post-secondary institutions are attracting the best students. However, this article targets one group, Asians, and one institution, the University of Toronto.
In the article, U of T is described as having a reputation of “being Asian”. The article suggests that Asian students are so “academically focussed” that they make it hard for white students to compete and “have fun”. The article does not address the argument that it’s up to each student, in any university, to go for fun over academia.
The article gives the impression that university is a club, or a sports centre, rather than an academic institution. It claims that white students believe that competing with Asian students “requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make”. This raises the question that if one was not willing to make sacrifices in university, then they are clearly not serious about their academics—like others who are willing to make such sacrifices, and who may very well be Asian.
Perhaps most of the outrage is over the fact that multiculturalism does not seem to be respected. The article states that many Asians have felt resented at university for “taking white students’ spaces”. There is a mention of an Asian student being told off by a white mother at his high school graduation for taking her son’s spot in university.
The article also seems to suggest that U of T accepts students based on ethnic backgrounds, rather than on academic performances—the latter is, of course, the only actual basis of admission to U of T.
Some questions arise: Why is it such a concern that a top university like U of T should attract the top students, which happen to be Asian students? Why isn’t there an article called “UWO: Too White?”
Commented one reader on torontolife.com about the controversy, “Congratulations, Maclean’s, you really set a bar high for journalistic racism. It is really like reading off of a 1930s Nazi propaganda article, ‘Germany: Too Jewish?’ ”
The article was taken down from the website temporarily and then reposted with a few changes. Maclean’s has since changed the original title from “Too Asian?” to “The enrolment controversy” and put a link at the bottom of the article to a new article. The new article is entitled “Merit: the best and only way to decide who gets into university”.
In this article, the original story and the headline are belatedly explained. It ends saying: “One final note about the headline. Although the phrase ‘Too Asian?’ was a question and, again, a quotation from an authoritative source, it upset many people. We expected that it would be provocative, but we did not intend to cause offence.”
The edited article can be found at http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/11/10/too-asian.