"My educated guess on the WL epidemic (at least it's an epidemic in our household LOL) is the following:..."
I think that you are correct. Schools have aggressively advertised to teenagers so that they can get more applicants and accept a smaller percentage (and be considered "more selective"), but appear to be concerned that there will be a corresponding smaller number of accepted students actually attending. Also, the aid issue that you brought up is also going to be a factor in where students go, which means that a student might not go to their first choice if the financial aspects are better elsewhere. There might also be an uncertainty factor on the part of admissions staff: If they don't know what percentage of admitted students will actually attend, then how can they know how many students to send acceptances to?
It is hard to know to what extent being put on a waitlist means "no, but we are trying to be nice", or "probably no, but we want to keep our options open just in case", or "maybe, tell us whether you really want to come here, so that we can decide whether to let you in".
Unfortunately this takes a long and stressful process and extends it longer.
"...who knows what goes on in the admissions process."
"I feel so bad for Asian males looking to get into STEM majors at top universities."
One thing that I have learned from reading CC posts: I have been stunned by the outstanding quality of some of the students that have been turned down by multiple universities. Also, given the number of ECs and the number of AP classes some students take, I also wonder when they sleep.
I have worked in high tech in the northeast for years (somewhere near Boston). Jeans, t-shirts, clean clothes, no holes in the clothes, no severely worn clothes. Technical conferences are typically the same, although I avoid jeans for long trips only because they are too heavy to carry a lot of them in a suitcase. One time years ago I was going to drop by a wedding on the way back from a technical conference so I had a suit with me. At the last minute I was asked to give a talk to the full conference so I asked the chair "should I wear the suit". His reply was "no, people will think that you are not technical".
I suspect that some companies might be different, even radically different. I wouldn't dress like this for an interview at a bank or investment company, but then I wouldn't interview at a bank or investment company.
"Can you explain this to me? My first read was that minority students had better not strive for equality of access to education. Trying to give you a chance to clarify. "
The top relatively large universities that I have checked (I will admit that I have only checked the top 5 in the country, but someone else posted data on more like the top 15 or so) have reduced the number of white students to less than 50% of all students. A few have reduced the number of white students that they will accept to approximately 40%. The last data that I saw from one of the top universities had white students reduced to 36%. Given that white people make up somewhere around about 62% of the US population, arbitrarily limiting 62% of the US population to only 40% of the slots in top universities does not count as "equality of access". We don't need to limit 62% of Americans to 40% of the slots in our top universities in order to provide equality of access to minority students.
When asked, some people say "oh, white students can go to their state universities". However, it appears that at least one state university does not agree with this, which I guess is sort of the point of this entire thread.
I will admit that a few very northern LACs have more than 50% white students. However, these are not large enough to add up to a significant percentage of all of the student slots that are available at top US universities.
If white students made up 70% of the strongest applicants, but were limited to 62% of the slots (since that is the percent of white people in the country) then very few people would be bothered by this. If white people were limited to 55% I still think that relatively few people would be bothered. However, there needs to be some limit in terms of how low a percentage universities will be willing to accept. 40% is going too far, and is upsetting a significant amount of people. Most people who are upset about this are not willing to talk about it, but they are willing to vote. If you were surprised this past November, then you have not been paying attention.
I don't think that anyone is questioning the desire to have minority students represented at top universities. However, there is a need to leave a few slots for the rest of the population. Blatant discrimination against the majority of the population, in the long run, is not going to work out well. You don't want angry people going in to the voting booth. The least bad long term result that might occur from this is a supreme court which declares affirmative action unconstitutional. This would be unfortunate since a small amount of affirmative action is clearly (IMHO) desirable. However, there are worse outcomes that could happen.