Harvard University sued for alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants

Photo courtesy of seo.harvard.edu

By Grace Lewis || Contributing Writer

A non-profit organization entitled Students for Fair Admissions has filed suit against Harvard University. The claim is against the admission department for actively discriminating against Asian-Americans regarding their undergraduate applications. In studies by the plaintiff, evidence shows that the Asian-American applicants exceeded what was necessary to be admitted based on objective measures, such as grades, test scores, and extra curriculars (CNN).

However, Asian-Americans were consistently rated low in “personality traits” such as kindness, courage, and ambition- greatly decreasing the chances of their admittance into the school. This may seem just a coincidence, but the study showed that these personality ratings are consistently low, despite alumni interviewers giving applicants high marks in character (New York Times). Without these seemingly attractive character qualities, the acceptance rate for Asian-Americans has been decreasing greatly, more so every year, for the past twenty years (The Washington Examiner). The study also found that if one applicant of a different race had applied with the same qualifications as one of the Asian-American candidate who had applied, the admittance rate for the different races would be as followed: 25% chance of being admitted if they were Asian, a 35% chance if they were Caucasian, a 75% chance if they were Latino, and a 95% chance if they were African American (The Washington Examiner).

Harvard University claims that it is “deeply committed” to a strongly “diverse” student body (Harvard Gazette). Despite this claim, in 2013, the University conducted an internal study of its admissions department and found a strong bias towards Asian-Americans. This investigation concluded that if academics were the only important part of being admitted, the student population would be 43.4% Asian, rather than the actual 19% (The Washington Examiner). In order to have these numbers, the University would have to artificially cap the number of Asian-Americans they admit into the school in order to seemingly progress the admissions of “less eligible” applicants of other races. This “racial balancing” would keep minority populations in some sort of controlled manner by having this many people of one race and that many of another.

Controlled count of race is in violation of Section VI of the Civil Rights Act which does not allow discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance” (CNN). Harvard University has received at least $550.5 million in federal funds (Harvard University). Harvard is not the only university seemingly using this type of racial bias in its admissions process. Right next door, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been found to have similar statistics with racial discrimination as Harvard (Washington Examiner). The non-profit filing the suit has also claimed that more than 100 other universities use the same kind of methods in their college admissions (Newsweek).

As this case moves closer towards court, more and more support has come out in favor of the university. Briefs have been filed and submitted in favor of Harvard’s admission style by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Asian American Defense and Education Fund, along with over 500 social scientists. These groups and others say that the case is an attack on attempting to diversify and include every race in the process of higher education (Harvard Gazette).The case will begin trial in the next coming months; the university is in favor of starting the trial as soon as possible. However, the plaintiff is insistent on not wanting to start trail until after October 1st.  (CNN).

First-year Grace Lewis is a Contributing Writer. Her email is glewis@fandm.edu

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