Asian Americans Would Benefit From 'Academics-Only' Admission, Finds Harvard Study

Geraldine Edwards
June 18, 2018

A group that claims Harvard puts quotas on Asian-American applicants contends the university scores them higher than students of other races on academics and extracurricular activities but ranks them lowest in a "personal" category covering such traits as likability and "attractive to be with".

But the number of Asian-American students in Harvard's admitted class is only at 23 percent; which the school boasts is a 29 percent increase over the last decade.

The two sides made dueling motions Friday calling on Judge Allison Burroughs to rule in their favor through summary judgment, but the case is expected to go to trial in the fall.

The court documents, filed in federal court in Boston, also showed that Harvard conducted an internal investigation into its admissions policies in 2013 and found a bias against Asian-American applicants.

"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", the university said in a statement.

It says the 2013 report was incomplete and preliminary.

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It marks a step forward in a lawsuit that has lasted almost four years and raises implications for many other colleges that, like Harvard, say they consider race as one of many factors to gather a diverse mix of students.

Low rankings gained by Asian-Americans in categories such as likeability, kindness, courage and being "widely respected" dramatically reduced their chances of getting into Harvard despite gaining better academic results than other ethnic groups. After considering preferences for athletes and legacy applicants, the proportion of Asian-Americans who would be admitted fell to 31 percent.

Students for Fair Admissions President Blum found the woman who pursued that case.

To blame, he wrote, are subjective rating categories for which Asian-American applicants consistently received lower scores than their white peers.

Yet Harvard alumni who interview applicants and provide their own ratings generally scored Asian-Americans higher than whites, a contrast that Arcidiacono says suggests bias. The inquiry, uncovered by Blum's group, was conducted amid earlier allegations of discrimination against Harvard.

Harvard, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, filed its own brief on Friday denying discrimination against Asian Americans. Accounting for extracurricular and personal ratings, the share of whites rose again, and Asian-Americans fell to 26 percent. They said that the review was not created to evaluate whether Harvard was intentionally discriminating and that it "reached no such conclusion".

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University officials have painted the lawsuit as an attack on their ability to consider race in admissions, which they say is necessary to ensure diversity on campus.

Plaintiffs say Harvard gave Asian-American...

Lieu acknowledged universities can use race as a factor in admissions, citing the Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas. In previous lawsuits, such as against the University of Texas, Blum enlisted white students as plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit focused on challenging race as a consideration in college admissions.

"Rather, Harvard's admissions process is created to identify engaged and creative students who will take their place as the leaders of the next generation and who will be equipped to deal with a complex, diverse world".

The documents also show that Harvard has considered race-neutral admissions policies in recent years, including socio-economic factors and geography, but found that neither were sufficient. "We believe that the rest of the evidence will be released in the next few weeks, and it will further confirm that Harvard is in deliberate violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act".

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