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Does Harvard (And Academia) Discriminate Against Asians?

May 3, 2021 Frontpage No Comments


To answer the question above, a lot of Asians not only think so, but also believe that Asians are being discriminated at all levels of education and many put the blame on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and affirmative action, provoking lawsuits against the offending schools. The gist of the litigation is that Harvard, Yale, other colleges, and elite schools have been using illegitimate racial quotas to cap the number of Asians granted entry.
And all of this is leading many to call for an end to affirmative action and Critical Race Theory in academic admissions.
A suit against Harvard, which is now on the Supreme Court pending list, claims the school, by manipulating evaluation criteria for applicants, disfavors Asian students. According to the Harvard suit, back in December of 2012 a report in The New York Times alleged that the school had an Asian student quota. The school responded by asking its Office of Institutional Research (OIR) to investigate. The Internal OIR report found “evidence that Asians are disadvantaged in the admissions process” and placed the blame on Harvard’s use of a personal rating to evaluate a prospective student. It also reported that being an Asian applicant “negatively correlated” with admission.
To place this in perspective, the Harvard admission process uses race at every stage, including recruitment. There, Black and Hispanic high school students with a PSAT score of 1100 and up are invited to apply, but Asian applicants must score 1350 or above, higher than all other racial groups, including whites. There comes a point when those tentatively approved for admission are placed on a “lop list” list to winnow the field.
Those who are placed on that list are then evaluated using four data points: legacy status, recruited athletic status, financial aid eligibility, and race. Race was to be considered by creating a “personal rating” score for each applicant by evaluating them four areas: leadership, self-confidence, likability, and kindness. Black and Hispanic applicants are then awarded racial preferences, but Asian applicants are not. It was in this process that Asians scored the lowest.
In November of 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA), filed a federal suit in Massachusetts on behalf of its members and Asian students who were denied admission. Students for Fair Admissions, according to its webpage, “is a nonprofit membership group of more than 20,000 students, parents, and others who believe that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. . . . A student’s race and ethnicity should not be factors that either harm or help that student to gain admission to a competitive university.”
According to the SFFA’s Supreme Court appeal, at the district court, “Harvard’s admissions data revealed astonishing racial disparities in admissions rates among similarly qualified applicants.” Yet in September of 2019 the district court ruled Harvard’s use of race was consistent with applicable Supreme Court precedents, the leading one being a 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court, in a case over racial preferences at the University of Michigan Law School, ruled 5-4 that an admission process that favors “underrepresented minority groups” is constitutional. On appeal the First Circuit affirmed.
The petition for review (writ of certiorari) was filed February 25 and as of this writing 20 amicus briefs have been filed on the issue of certiorari.
In its petition, SFFA asks that the court overturn its ruling Grutter. That holding, “that schools can use race in admissions to pursue student body diversity is plainly wrong,” and “Harvard’s admissions program does not comply with (the) court’s precedents.” At Harvard, the petition states, “race is not ‘plus’ that is always ‘beneficial’; it’s a minus for Asian Americans.”
In arguing that the Grutter decision should be overturned, the certiorari petition argues that it is “grievously wrong” since the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment “contains no exceptions: it protects ‘any person’ from the denials of ‘the equal protection of the laws’” and that “free governments demand the abolition of all distinctions founded on color and race. . . . Grutter’s diversity rationale is not only uncompelling; it flouts basic equal-protection principles.
“If a university wants to admit students with certain experiences (say, overcoming discrimination), then it can evaluate whether individual applicants have that experience. It cannot simply use race as a proxy for certain experiences or views.”
It also argues that Grutter has “spawned significant negative consequences” in that it “sustains admission programs that intentionally discriminate against historically oppressed minorities. Jewish students were the first victims of holistic admissions, and Asian Americans are the main victims today.”
This is not the only suit SFFA has filed. Edward Blum, president of SFFA, said in a press release, “Yale, Harvard, the University of North Carolina, the University of Texas, and many dozens of other highly competitive colleges and universities employ admissions practices that are discriminatory, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. Students applying to undergraduate and post-graduate programs should be judged on their individual talents, character, academic skills, extracurricular achievements, and socio-economic background but not the color of their skin.”
Of course, this is not new to the Asian-American community which is facing the bulk of academic discrimination.
In Fairfax County, Va., for example, Asian-American parents are taking action against a local high school. Former Wall Street Journal reporter and parent, Asra Q. Nomani, is part of a movement which is confronting the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology for lowering its rigorist standards for admission to the detriment of Asian students. She writes:
“To understand what’s behind this conflict, look no further than the controversial ideology of critical race theory, which praises or blames members of a particular race solely because they happen to be that race and seeks to interpret all forms of perceived injustice through a racial lens. This ideology has swept through America’s educational system at every level and is erasing our different narratives as Asian-Americans from different backgrounds and — to our shock — marginalizing our children and us.
“The ugly truth about critical race theory is that it inevitably seeks to fight racial hierarchies by instituting new forms of racial hierarchies. And Asian-American parents are increasingly taking notice. . . . County school officials set out to correct the supposedly problematic over-representation of Asian American students at TJ by watering down the strict admission standards.”
And in an echo of the SFFA case against Harvard, she adds, “Although the new process states it will ‘use only race-neutral methods,’ in practice this subjective set of standards allows them to pick and choose the students they prefer to achieve their desired racial balance and keep out too many Asian-American students.”
Similar cases are now proceeding against schools in New York City, Boston, and Washington State. Whether this movement will be able to curb race-based admissions programs is yet to be seen. One of the problems the Asian community faces, according to Nomani, is that as Asians have overcome discrimination and achieved upward mobility, “we are now white by adjacency.” She points to recent Black Lives Matter rioters who assaulted a rally supporting merit-based education.
“Education is the main area where CRT attacked us,” she wrote. “CRT, naturally, demands automatic preferences for blacks in admissions to selective institutions and programs. That is unacceptable to us: Such racial preferences come at the expense of our children, at the expense of academic standards, and at the expense of basic fairness.”
She continued in reference to the Harvard suit: “Despite never having met the applicants, Harvard admissions officers somehow conclude that Asian applicants lack integrity and courage — directly contradicting evaluations from interviewers who met the applicants, and from teachers who’ve known the applicants for months if not years. If smearing Asians this way isn’t hate speech, then what is? Call it diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
If blocking affirmative action in admissions is something in which you are interested, this might be your time. But as I always caution, if you are relying on the legal system, it will take time, and even then, the Supreme Court has not even agreed to review the case, much less overrule the Grutter precedent.
Time will tell.
Update: Just after the above column was submitted, Senate Democrats voted down an amendment from Senate Republicans to a hate crimes bill which would have barred federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian-Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions. The vote was 49 Republicans for and 48 Democrats against. It needed 60 votes to pass.
(You can reach Mike at: and listen to him every Thursday morning at 10 CT on Faith On Trial on

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