Harvard sued for alleged discrimination against Asian American applicants

Pauline Gross
June 18, 2018

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. African-Americans constitute 15%, Latinos 12.2%. He said he was sure Harvard was lying about its admissions policies not being racist and chided the school for ranking Asians as have worse personalities. Harvard also submitted an expert report that said the challengers' personal ratings model did not sufficiently control for such factors as the personal essay, teacher recommendations.

According to the filings, each applicant is assigned a numerical value in four categories - academic, extracurricular, athletic and personal - along with an overall score that's meant to be comprehensive but isn't based on any particular formula. Of course, the fear lurking behind all of this is that exposure of these unfair admissions practices could eventually lead to the end of all affirmative action policies in admissions.

Both sides have filed for summary judgment in the case - meaning a judge would rule for one side or the other immediately - but if that request is denied, the case will go to trial in October, just in time for the next school year's application season. "Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s".

The group in its 2014 complaint said Harvard defines "Asian-Americans" as including individuals of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong or Indian descent.

For the class of 2019, for example, more than 8,000 had ideal grade point averages, 3,500 had flawless SAT math scores, and 2,700 had flawless SAT verbal scores.

Harvard also objected to the group's use of a 2013 internal study that was uncovered during discovery.

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They quoted figures stating that an Asian-American male applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he was white, 75 percent if he were Hispanic and a 95 percent chance if he were black.

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".

"Having failed to persuade the Supreme Court to invalidate the admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin, they have now trained their sights on Harvard, a private university, which has long sought to assemble an extraordinary and diverse class of undergraduates by conducting a wide-ranging review of each applicant's background and experience", Harvard said in their court filing.

Edward Blum, a legal strategist who founded the group, issued a statement saying his group's filing "exposes the startling magnitude of Harvard's discrimination". In previous lawsuits, such as against the University of Texas, Blum enlisted white students as plaintiffs.

Harvard countered with a statement calling the group's analysis "incomplete and misleading", saying it paints a "dangerously inaccurate picture" of the school's admissions process. Blum's group said the public should have access to the records, and the U.S. Education Department weighed in to agree.

Federal civil rights law bars discrimination based on race.

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