Sunday, May 17, 2015

Asian Americans file complaint alleging discrimination in Harvard admissions

More than 60 Asian American organizations filed a complaint (see below) with the federal government on Friday alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in the admissions process and calling for an investigation.

The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper on campus, wrote in this story that 64 groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Education and Justice departments, arguing that the university makes an “unlawful use of race” in its decisions that hurts Asian Americans.

More than 21 percent of the admitted students for the current school year were Asian American, according to Harvard data. Asian Americans comprised the largest minority group accepted, the data shows. In the Class of 2017, admitted four years earlier, Asian Americans comprised 19.9 percent.

The complaint, in part, says:

Over the last two decades, Asian-American applicants to Harvard University and other Ivy League colleges have increasingly experienced discrimination in the admissions process. Many Asian-American students who have almost perfect SAT scores, top 1% GPAs, plus significant awards or leadership positions in various extracurricular activities have been rejected by Harvard University and other Ivy League Colleges while similarly situated applicants of other races have been admitted. Because of this discrimination, it has become especially difficult for high-performing male Asian-American students to gain admission to Harvard University and other Ivy League colleges. In recently years these trends have become more and more severe. They are widely reported by various Asian-American web bloggers and other media.

The Crimson story said that Robert W. Iuliano, the university’s general counsel, issued a statement in response to Friday’s complaint denying that Harvard admissions uses unlawful methods of selecting students:

“[W]ithin its holistic admissions process, and as part of its effort to build a diverse class, Harvard College has demonstrated a strong record of recruiting and admitting Asian American students,” Iuliano wrote, citing recent increases in the percentage of admitted Asian American students at Harvard College.

The complaint, the Crimson said, draws on the work of a number of admissions researchers, including Thomas J. Espenshade, a sociologist at Princeton who has written extensively about the subject. He told the Crimson that his research suggests that Asian Americans are disadvantaged in college admissions, but it is not clear because all parts of a student’s application are not available to researchers. He was quoted as saying:

“I stop short of saying that Asian-American students are being discriminated against in the college application process because we don’t have sufficient empirical evidence to support that claim.”

Asian Americans have for years argued that they are being discriminated against in college admissions. A recent Los Angeles Times story about how college admissions is changing for Asian Americans says in part:

College admission season ignites deep anxieties for Asian American families, who spend more than any other demographic on education. At elite universities across the U.S., Asian Americans form a larger share of the student body than they do of the population as a whole. And increasingly they have turned against affirmative action policies that could alter those ratios, and accuse admissions committees of discriminating against Asian American applicants.

That perspective has pitted them against advocates for diversity: More college berths for Asian American students mean fewer for black and Latino students, who are statistically underrepresented at top universities.

That story tells of a college prep business called HS2 Academy which “assumes that racial bias is a fact of college admissions and counsels students accordingly” with a goal of helping Asian American applicants “avoid coming off like another ‘cookie-cutter Asian.'”

This is the second complaint against Harvard admissions  practices on behalf of Asian Americans in a month. A legal defense group called Project on Fair Representation filed a lawsuit against Harvard about a month ago on behalf of a group called Students for Fair Admissions. It accuses Harvard of “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies” in its admissions practices. Asia Times


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