Is Harvard Discriminating Against Asian-American Applicants? Featured

20 January 2016

2015 was marked by a series of unprecedented complaints directed towards Harvard. Specifically, the group SFFA – Students for Fair Admissions has filed a complaint in November 2014 regarding a bias in the Asian student admission procedure. They argued that Harvard has set up a system that holds Asian students to higher standards than the others, and forces them to compete. To support their claims, SFFA brought up a study conducted by sociologists from Princeton, which revealed the fact that the SAT scores for Asian Americans needed to be about 140 points higher than the other students.

After the filing of this lawsuit, The Asian American Coalition has filed a complaint as well, with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education, asking that they force Harvard to stop using racial balancing so that Ivy League schools can never discriminate again.

The general complaint about Harvard’s admission policy seems to have sprung out on many occasions. Various people and groups have argued that given the increase in Asian American population, Harvard did not try to keep the pace and raise the number of admission in this segment of the population.

So, Are Asian Americans Treated Differently?

In the last couple of years, the admission rate to Harvard has dropped to 6%. Given the grueling competition, the evaluation process has changed tremendously, focusing on teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities and personal statements. That means that SATs have stopped being the determining factor in admissions.

Also, looking at Harvard’s history of graduates and even at its current tendency, it can be easily noticed that they are inclined to form a very diverse campus. They strive to gather students from all kinds of environments and cultures: students that lived at farms, students that have served in the military, humanitarians, scientists, athletes, Olympians and so on.

Furthermore, Harvard has rejected the argument that the institution is not accepting enough Asian American Students, stating that the percentage admitted has increased in the last couple of years from 17.6 percent to 21.

Harvard also argues that their admission policy is animated by the will of forming generations of people that will live in a pluralistic world, thus they believe that they should be left to carry on with their policy of diversity.

A Matter for Debate

Harvard does not admit the existence of quotas in the admission system, and their position is somehow backed by its students who say that they have no knowledge about this. However, many groups are asking for greater transparency regarding their admission process.

Experts have argued, in the light of these events, that the lawsuit threatens the very core of Harvard: diversity in excellence. The racial balancing has been the prime method of ensuring a diverse distribution of race among the students at Harvard.

Ultimately, the debates whether there is a racial bias or not in Harvard’s admission process should raise awareness in all educational institutions. Also, one must reflect on the subject of whether preferential treatments are truly that unimaginable, especially if the goal is to achieve ethnic, socioeconomic and racial diversity.

Read 70109 times Last modified on Sunday, 24 January 2016 23:52
Dr. Li

Executive Director, Ardent Academy for Gifted Youth; Co-President, OCSEF.