Asian American Groups File Complaint Against Harvard Over Discrimination in Admissions

220px-Harvard_Wreath_Logo_1.svgWe have previously discussed how schools have rejected students with substantially higher scores for college admissions to allow the admission of African-American and hispanic students. Some academics, myself included, have raised concerns about the significant differences in academic scores — a difference that is particularly great with regard to Asian Americans. For that reason, I share the concern that this constitutes a form of discrimination based on race. While there remains a permissible range in which schools can select students to achieve a diverse and pluralistic student body, the differential of admissions scores can be alarming in some cases and suggest that students are being rejected simply because of their race.

I have previously discussed how schools have largely circumvented prior rulings against affirmative action programs. While many defend race-conscious admissions in terms of the need for affirmative action to correct historic discrimination, the Supreme Court barred such affirmative action in 1978 in Bakke. Justice Lewis Powell allowed for only a limited use of race for the purpose of achieving “diversity” in classes. Notably, in Bakke, the Medical School at the University of California at Davis had a more modest program over all by setting aside 16 of the 100 seats for “Blacks,” “Chicanos,” “Asians,” and “American Indians.” Those slots were justified as a matter of diversity, but found unconstitutional by the Court. However, the Court was deeply fractured. Five justices Powell and the plurality found that Bakke had to be admitted and that the weight given race was unconstitutional.

The exception however soon swallowed the rule as schools fought to maintain levels of minority students as a diversity rather than an affirmative action program. Many academics privately admit that the real purpose of these programs remains the original affirmative action rationale to ensure greater numbers of minorities in higher education.

The fact that the case continues to be referred to as the “affirmative action case” shows how little has changed since Bakke when the Court supposedly closed the door on affirmative action in admissions. By allowing race to still be used for diversity, educators sought to achieve the same numerical goals as a matter of diversity and achieving a racial “critical mass.”

In the most recent case, more than 60 Chinese, Indian, Korean and Pakistani groups filed a complaint with the civil rights offices at the justice and education departments. The Obama Administration is viewed as disinclined to pursue such claims and to support the use of race as part of a “critical mass” approach to admissions.

Robert Iuliano, Harvard University General Counsel, insisted that the university uses a “holistic admissions process” that is “fully compliant with federal law” to build a diverse class. That “holistic” approach is permissible but it can also hide the same type of affirmative action approach that the Court rejected. It comes down to the numbers and the record, which may only be made fully apparent with an investigation or litigation or both.

Source: USA Today

47 thoughts on “Asian American Groups File Complaint Against Harvard Over Discrimination in Admissions”

  1. Karen

    Again, your taking the situation to the extremes represents the failure of your argument.

  2. Heck, if grades shouldn’t matter to get into college, grades shouldn’t matter to graduate from college, either. Let’s just give everyone a degree just for showing up on their first day.

    This would probably have no affect on anyone’s job prospects or future success, and we can all feel good about diversity. Right?

  3. Jill:

    “I suggest a lottery for students. Anyone who wants to should put their name in the lottery. No grades, no test scores, nothing but a number linked to their name. A good school with these types of huge endowments should be able to take any student, put every available resource at their disposal and teach them. This will ensure diversity.”

    Well, there’s an idea straight out of “1984.” Let’s make all universities socialist. A degree from Harvard would be worth the same (AKA “complete junk”) as a degree from an online university. Everyone would get to go to college, when some would actually be more successful at a trade school. But, heck, why worry about future success when we can all feel good? And don’t forget to make all education free so no student will have to invest anything of his own, and therefor likely won’t care if he flunks out. Harvard and all the other universities will have a whole bunch of students who are illiterate or who cannot string a grammatically correct sentence together. Instead of doing undergraduate and post graduate work, we’ll have professors re-teaching high school work for a couple of years before starting on university work, when a large percentage of those students still won’t be able to or won’t want to complete the work.

    We’ll have astro physicist professors trying to teach basic algebra to lottery students.

    Now that will launch American education into the 21st Century!

  4. Karen

    The fact that others do it seems to be the last gasp of a losing argument. The North sacrificing so many to defeat the South had more to do with people going to war when their government tells them to. Sometimes it is in a good cause, sometimes for a bad cause, sometimes a bit of both. Look at Iraq and Vietnam. All those lives lost were caused by those wielding power. Like Muhammed Ali said, “I ain’t got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever tried to hurt me.” Sometimes it is what it is.

    The North was attacked by the South and went to war because that’s what you do when you’re attacked. The rest is the combination of abolishing slavery and keeping the Union together. You can manipulate history selectively to suit your argument but it doesn’t change it.

    This is not about White Guilt but about finishing fixing the mistakes our country made. If you can inherit the ‘number one’ strongest, richest nation status then you have to understand it comes with baggage. Or perhaps all your ancestors were perfect.

  5. Whites paid to free the slaves in the US with their own blood and lives. Then white voters agreed to spend billions of tax dollars on various programs to try to help minorities.

    If you could go back in time and tell a Northern widow that, although her husband died to free the slaves and preserve the Union, and left her penniless with children, that Liberal politicians would paint whites as the enemy, how she would feel about it.

    White Guilt is just another meme to get votes so people can “feel better” without actually helping minorities. Because none of these programs actually work. The only thing that does is when kids stay in school, study hard, stay away from crime and drugs, and wait until they’re married to have kids. That might not be the “cool” thing to do, but statistically, it works.

  6. And by the way, does anyone know how to bold a phrase in a post on Word Press?

  7. Isaac:

    “The crimes against humanity won’t be forgotten and their effects won’t be erased in such short a time.”

    Please comment on the fact that virtually every civilization in recorded history practiced slavery, including many tribes of Native Americans. In fact, slavery STILL EXISTS in many places in Africa today.

    I’m wondering if you apply those same standards everywhere? Should Native American tribes be severely punished, today, for their use of slavery? What about the Portuguese? They were quite active in the slave trade. Do they owe reparations? The Dutch? What about GB? What about the African tribes who sold their enemies to slavers? Should the Native American tribes who completely wiped out other tribes pay reparations?

    If we want to get real about a just society, then we need to start treating skin color as the superficial attribute that it is. Justice is blind, not hyper focused on skin color.

  8. Isaac got his white guilt freak flag flyin’ today! I’ve never see this radical a side of him. Interesting and it explains a lot.

  9. Isaac:

    It really is that simple. People should get a job or college entrance based on merit alone. That is called “fair.”

    Giving someone a job they are unqualified for because they are white, brown, or polka dotted is not fair. It’s literally racist to exclude someone else based solely on skin color.

    If you want to even the playing field, then help poor kids, regardless of skin color, get help like tutoring and safe places to play. But you don’t give C work an A. You don’t graduate illiterate kids from high school. That is not “helping” them. That is giving them an accomplishment that they did not earn, and which still leaves them unprepared for life.

    If you had cancer, would you want your oncologist to announce that he was admitted to medical school with Cs, and was graded easier than everyone else because he was African American, or would you want the best doctor you could find?

    I’ve already given you an example of what happens when hiring is based on race – you get the MLK Hospital scandal.

  10. Karen

    It would be nice if it were that simple. “You either meet the requirements or you don’t.” The feudal lords and privileged classes said, and sometimes still say the same thing. It’s like that in Saudi Arabia. The essence of a democracy and a free nation is to evolve to a point where everyone has an equal opportunity and the best from the entire pool rise to the leadership positions. In this country still based on privilege, the best do not rise to the top. Any one with two eyes can see that. Many who might benefit society never get the chance.

    A people inherits both the strengths and the weaknesses of its predecessors. It’s easy to wave the flag and spout ‘We’re number one.’, but not so easy to face up to some aspects of the past. It is human nature to dwell on success but not so much on failure. It is in failure that the greatest learning lies. There are very few if any ‘number ones’, perhaps a few athletes, Nobel prize winners, etc. The descent of a people is when they believe they are number one by the mere virtue of having been born. However one can be disadvantaged in this great society by being born black, a woman, gay etc. It is what it is. It is a we as well as an I thing. It is amazing to see how easy it is to step from the we to the I and back again to suit the ego.

    Conservatives cherry pick equalities, opportunities, and rights to suit the status quo. We are the guardians or shepherds of our society. It is up to us to repair the mistakes. Racism is found in human nature. It is the cheap shot at feeling superior in this world of many billions. It’s greatest expression has been slavery. The US is less than sixty years from being a nation where slaves were supposed to be free but weren’t. The crimes against humanity won’t be forgotten and their effects won’t be erased in such short a time.

  11. TinEar, Obama’s kids will get more advantages in admission than the white boy of a dirt poor, crystal meth tweaker from the hills of Missouri.

  12. David

    There is race and there is interpretive race or racism. The line between the two is often obscured by many.

  13. And the government is a poor substitute for family.

    When people make bad decisions and have kids out of wedlock with an absent father and no support, the government can try to help, but it’s not the government’s fault if children statistically don’t fare as well.

    Case in point – the foster care system. It means well, but it’s broken. Foster care is also a high risk factor for being a high school dropout and/or going to jail. Many foster parents are just in it for the money, sadly.

    Better life through bigger government is a false promise of salvation.

  14. The education gap is not about race; it’s about environment. Same for the over representation of African Americans in our jails.

    Take a Caucasian child, raise him in a single parent household with the mother never home because she’s working 3 jobs, in a high crime neighborhood where gangs promise to keep him “safe”, filled with drug pushers, and his friends all pressure him not to study and drop out, and you’ll have the same end product poorly equipped to succeed in life.

  15. “the differential of admissions scores can be alarming in some cases and suggest that students are being rejected simply because of their race.”

    That is exactly what is happening. People are being excluded from college because of their race.

    But this is completely OK to many Liberals because the victims are not African American.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that everyone should be judged equally. You either meet the requirements for college admission or you don’t.

  16. an admissions advisor (Chinese-American, BTW), told me that the university decides how many of each racial group to admit, based in representation in the population, then each group competes against itself.

    The practice is referred to as race-norming. It’s illegal, but schools & governments do it anyway.

  17. When I was at UCLA in the early 80s an admissions advisor (Chinese-American, BTW), told me that the university decides how many of each racial group to admit, based in representation in the population, then each group competes against itself. Thus an Asian kid whose parents are recent immigrants and work in a sweatshop competes against Asians whose parents are doctors or own computer companies in Silicon Valley. Poor white rural kids compete against wealthy white kids. Blacks whose parents are high ranking government executives compete against blacks from inner cities. She said that in the 60s, when AA first was implemented, the school sought out disadvantaged students, but soon found out that they couldn’t survive academically due to poor primary and secondary educations. Thus in order to achieve diverse graduates, they began looking at “color only.” Since each “color” competes against itself, those with the better financial and educational backgrounds will be admitted, and many will graduate. She said the vast majority of blacks at U.C. are from upper-middle-class to wealthy families, while whites and Asians are typically from more modest socio-economic backgrounds, yet do better academically. Currently, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that more Asians than whites have college degrees, so it would seem to follow that white college applicants should be granted affirmative action.

  18. If Harvard wants to discriminate to increase African American and Hispanic enrollment, so be it. Harvard can determine the diversity or other qualities it needs to remain a top university and let the chips fall where they may. If state operated universities like UC Berkley or U of Michigan do the same it requires extremely tortured logic to determine that the practice doesn’t violate the 14th Amendment.

  19. On Earth, as there is in Heaven, there is one human race. Oh, there is this propensity for humans to want to belong to a group whose itShay dont stink. Yeah, I learned Pig Latin to get by WordPress. People from Harvard and Yale are prime examples of those humans who think their itShay dont stink. One has to go West young man, to places like New Orleans where the humans do mix quite well and few believe in that itShay dont stink thing.

    1. Beldar wrote: “On Earth, as there is in Heaven, there is one human race.”

      I don’t know how many races are in heaven, but here on earth, from an evolutionary science perspective, we have several subspecies (races) of humans. People just don’t like to admit it.

      It is curious how you can’t have “racism” unless you acknowledge that there are different races of people, but then when you define racism concretely, pointing out the differences between the races, and therefore their inequality, suddenly people start yelling, “there is only one human race.” If there really was only one human race, there would be no such thing as racism. And so it goes, trying to end racism through semantics rather than through a rational understanding of the different races of people.

  20. David

    “races aren’t all the same in terms of culture, intelligence, and the way they think about higher education” So it’s a race thing then? So, don’t work from the ‘meme’ or belief that all races are equal? David, David, David.

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