Harvard Accused Of 'Racial Balancing': Lawsuit Says Asian Americans Treated Unfairly

18 June, 2018, 02:18 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Harvard University in Cambridge Mass

Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like "positive personality", likability, courage, kindness and being "widely respected", according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.

"It turns out that the suspicions of Asian-American alumni, students and applicants were right all along", the group, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a court document laying out the analysis.

The reports were filed in Boston's federal court as both parties attempted to persuade a judge to end the suit before it reaches trial, which has been scheduled to start in October.

Asian-Americans, for example, received lower scores than any other racial group in a category for 'personal qualities, ' and they fared worse than whites in an overall rating category that isn't based on any particular formula.

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Students for Fair Admissions asserted on Friday that Harvard conducted an internal investigation in 2013 that found its admissions system was biased against Asian-Americans but that it then "killed the investigation and buried the reports".

Harvard counters that the study was never meant to evaluate possible discrimination and that it was 'incomplete, preliminary and based on limited inputs'.

Even if other criteria - such as legacy students, athletic recruiting and extracurricular and personal attributes - are included, the plaintiffs say, the number of Asian Americans at Harvard would still have risen to more than 26 percent. But the personality ratings drastically reduced their chances of getting admitted. The review concluded that if the school only considered academic standing when granting admissions, Asian-Americans would make up 43% of the incoming class.

"Incontrovertible evidence shows that Harvard's admissions policy has a disproportionately negative effect on Asian Americans vis-a-vis similarly situated white applicants that can not be explained on non-discriminatory grounds", the group said in its brief.

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Instead, Harvard sought its own study from David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who found no evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans.

The complaint states that Asian-American applicants who applied to Harvard were not selected despite having "almost flawless SAT scores, top 1% GPAs, plus significant awards of leadership positions in various extracurricular activities". "In addition to that, Harvard has a racial balancing policy that balances the percentages of African-Americans, Hispanics, Whites and Asians".

"Mr. Blum and his organization's incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College's whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations that directly counter his arguments", said Anna Cowenhoven, a spokeswoman for Harvard. In a statement, the school called the lawsuit an attack on its ability to consider race in admissions, which it says is necessary to gather a racially diverse mix of students. In previous lawsuits, such as against the University of Texas, Blum enlisted white students as plaintiffs.

Lawyers for the students claimed leaders of Harvard's admission team were evasive during depositions and appeared to suffer memory problems. When the Supreme Court first upheld affirmative action in the case forty years ago, it said race could be one factor among many in deciding who gets a place, to bolster campus diversity, but it forbade quotas.

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The judge ultimately sided with Harvard, but Blum said Friday that he believes the rest of the records will be released 'in the next few weeks'.

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