Posted on September 28, 2005

New Politics of Race at Berkeley

David Epstein, InsideHigherEd, Sept. 23

When Fred Chang, a senior and president of Pi Alpha Phi, came to the University of California at Berkeley five years ago, he saw not one, but two Asian American fraternities — Pi Alpha Phi and Lambda Phi Epsilon — representing the only two nationally recognized Asian American fraternities in the nation. “You don’t see many schools with both,” Chang said. Only a handful of colleges in the nation outside of California have both.

He also took note of some of the 39 recognized student organizations aimed specifically at students interested in Asian topics — groups such as theater-oriented Asians on Stage by Any Means Necessary and the networking-oriented Asian Business Association.

Berkeley has had a lot of Asian American students for years, but never so many as now. Last year, according to the Office of Student Research, Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander students made up just over 40 percent of the student body. This year’s freshman class was just under 48 percent Asian, a record high, according to admissions officials, who said that, once the final tally of registered students is completed, the number of Asian and white students on campus will be nearly the same.

In this year’s freshman class, white enrollment is 31 percent, Latino enrollment 11 percent, and black enrollment 3 percent, with the remainder divided among “other” and those who did not identify their race or ethnicity.