Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe

Daniel Golden:

The U.S. Education Department is probing complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian- American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said. The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school’s handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.
Both complaints involve the same applicant, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India, according to the applicant’s father, who declined to be identified.

Steve Hsu on Transparency in college admissions:

Today we learned from Bloomberg that the U.S. Education Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. It is a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than applicants from other ethnic groups, including whites. Such practices were openly acknowledged as a result of internal investigations at universities like Berkeley and Stanford in the 1980s and 1990s. Have they now been corrected?
Statistics seem to support a claim of widespread discrimination across most of elite higher education. For example, in comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University’s Campus Life and Learning project (as reported in a recent analysis by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono and collaborators), Asian-American students averaged 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks. There is every reason to believe that a similar pattern holds at nearly all elite universities in America, with some notable exceptions such as Caltech. In fact, Duke may be one of the mildest offenders when it comes to Asian-American admissions: with the goal of increasing its overall student quality, Duke has reportedly been more friendly recently to Asian-American applicants than traditional powers such as Harvard and Princeton.

One thought on “Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe”

  1. IInteresting problem involving differing ethnic groups. I think it very important to have substantial diversity of all kinds in fields of study. However, diversity has been promoted by too many solely as balancing out those who have been historically, and currently, discriminated against. I think that is both necessary and justified.
    However, there are other substantively good reasons to do so that have nothing to do with some altruistic motive or view of political correctness.
    Diversity of ethnicity, culture, language, gender, interests etc, in addition to high qualifications are critical to advance academic and social fields.
    The importance of this struck me some years ago involving reports on observational studies of chimpanzees in the wild. Prior studies, done by male scientists, had observed much on the chimp society and a clan’s hierarchy, and it seemed fairly complete and understood.
    However, when female scientists entered the field, they saw significant events which their male colleagues had not. Specifically, that female chimps on occasion were being raped. These female scientists observed the victims shaking and traumatized, and being surrounded and consoled by other female chimps.
    That is, for decades, male scientists had not observed events which had quite clearly been occurring under their noses, and it took female scientists in the field to see the obvious.
    This is an example where, because of the lack of gender diversity, scientific truth was not being furthered.
    I don’t think it is overgeneralization to suggest that lack of diversity of ethnicity, language, culture, etc is a direct harm to academic fields (as well as other areas), and that diversity is necessary to appropriately advance knowledge.
    It is not altruism or PCness but direct self-interest of those who value pursuit of truth that dictates diversity.
    The alleged discrimination of Asian-American families at the institutions mentioned is serious. Many of these institutions have a long history of practicing the evils of discrimination — these elite institutions actively discriminated against Jews, and Blacks.
    Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton before becoming US President was a devout racist, and quickly eliminated blacks and other minorities from the US government, a direct reversal of Teddy Roosevelt’s policy.
    Jewish intellectuals from Europe during and prior to WWII, including Albert Einstein, could not find positions in these elite universities because of open anti-semitism. Silvia Nasser in A Beautiful Mind does a good, but summary, job of discussing these issues.
    Reported elsewhere, Asian-Americans are tending to self-identify as White or mixed in order to increase their chances of getting into the elite California colleges, and we see the same thing happening or being alleged at the eastern schools. But, reported also, is that certain campuses would become predominately Asian American if campuses did not account for factors such as ethnicity and other values outside of standardized test scores.
    So, the question is diversity vs SAT scores vs inappropriate discrimination. The inconvenient truth is that SAT scores are not the ultimate predictors of academic success. But they do count, and there is still the truth that many entering college (Whites included) are ill-prepared for the rigors of college even in the soft areas, and wholly unprepared for math, science and engineering. High standardized tests scores would at least ensure students would likely be able to handle college curriculum and succeed in the math and science areas. Use of SAT would also lessen the effects of cheating to play the admissions process. But the serious cost will be the lack of diversity and the harm that would cause.
    Perhaps the problem is the existence or labeling of certain institutions as being “elite”. Too much variance in quality, curriculum, faculty, cost, political clout, alumni, and student body. Why should it be the case that getting into a Harvard or a Princeton as a freshman is important, and that if you don’t get in, you need to bring a lawsuit, rather than going to another highly qualified University? The student’s goal should be to get as good an education as the student is capable of getting, where ever that might be, and not the goal of merely getting into a Harvard. Realistically, the answer is obvious. You know, there is a a term used for the many student’s who get into these schools based on Daddy — they are called “gentlemen scholars”. And, yes, they do become US Presidents, and Supreme Court justices, and land high paying jobs and have great influence based on connections, but not based on personal merit.
    The problems are systemic and these investigations, however they turn out, will not resolve the underlying issues.

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