Monday, May 18, 2015

Asian–American Group’s Complaint Attacks Harvard's Admissions Standards

A group representing Asian-American applicants to elite colleges filed a complaint Friday with the Departments of Justice and Education alleging that Harvard University and other private elite colleges discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The complaint by the Coalition of Asian-American Associations, a group of 64 organizations, is based on data from the lawsuit of the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. filed last November. The group’s complaint is backed by Edward Blum and the team that represented plaintiff Abigail Fisher in Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin. The complainants ask the government to require Harvard to, among other things to 1) stop using racial quotas or racial balancing in its admissions process, 2) limit subjective components in admissions for education purposes only (rather than for racial balancing), and provide more disclosure of its applicant pool qualifications. The Chronicle of Higher Education has posted the complaint here. The complaint’s introduction sums up the group’s concerns:

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.

Harvard uses a "holistic" approach to admissions, and the school is expected to respond much as it has in earlier challenges to its admissions process.  While complaint also discusses legacy, donor-related, and athletic applicants, given the realities of wealth and value in a capitalist society, can we really expect that private institutions like Harvard will limit those admissions? That leaves us eliminating affirmative action and reducing spots for the less-numerically qualified, including other racial and ethnic minorities. That is the tidy solution that Blum wants, argue several Asian-American academics at Colorlines such as Jennifer Lee (UC Irvine), who says that the complaint is another attack "using Asian-Americans as a wedge” against affirmative action. That point has been long recognized in legal scholarship, an example of which is Frank H. Wu’s (UC Hastings) article,  Neither Black Nor White: Asian Americans and Affirmative Action, in which he notes, “Rhetorically, the primary defensive maneuver to a claim of discrimination against Asian Americans became an offensive against affirmative action.” For many of us considering elevating numerical meritocracy over diversity (including various categories, such as geographic and life experience as well as racial and ethnic), we face our own hypocrisy – that contemporary students should not be allowed to similar benefits that we received as college applicants, including geographical, first-generation college, and other non-numerical considerations.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/education_law/2015/05/asianamerican-groups-complaint-attacks-harvards-admissions-standards.html

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