Harvard Sued for Anti-Asian Admission Policy

November 26, 2014
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A lawsuit claims that Harvard admissions policies discriminate against Asian-Americans.

A lawsuit claims that Harvard admissions policies discriminate against Asian-Americans.

Last week, a legal defense group of Project on Fair Representation filed a complaint in federal district court against Harvard University claiming that Asian-American applicants are unfairly discriminated against in the college admission process. The complaint states that “Harvard’s undergraduate admissions policies and procedures have injured and continue to injure Plaintiff’s members by intentionally and improperly discriminating against them on the basis of their race and ethnicity in violation of Title VI.” In a New York Times Op-Ed this week, Yascha Mounk, a PhD student at Harvard University, states that the lawsuit “offers strong evidence that Harvard engages in racial ‘balancing’.” He draws parallels to the 1920’s when the school, and then President A. Lawrence Lowell, capped admissions for Jewish applicants. Ron Unz, a Harvard graduate and publisher of the American Conservative, provides statistics that despite a doubling of Asian-American applicants between 1992 and 2011, Asian enrollment at Harvard actually dropped by several percentage points.  He contrasts this decline with enrollment at the California Institute of Technology, which has a strictly race-neutral admission policy. At CalTech, Asian-American enrollment has increased consistent with their growth in the overall population.  While Mounk asks why this discrimination is tolerated, the answer is unclear.  Some believe that increased Asian admissions would result in lowered acceptance rates for African-Americans or Latino-Americans.  Others point to a school’s objective in securing a diverse student body.  Mounk warns that the college admissions process is “so opaque that it is easy to conceal discrimination behind vague criteria like ‘intangible qualities’ or the desire for a ‘well-rounded class’.”  Earlier this year, Project on Fair Representation launched a website seeking students who believe that they were denied admission to Harvard because of their race.  Their goal is to assemble these students for legal action.  Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons has consistently denied that the university uses quotas of any kind.

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