At Harvard College, Asian students are allegedly being punished for being too smart — or maybe, just for being smarter than white kids.
It isn’t something Harvard wants to publicize, of course, but it’s a growing story nevertheless. A number of lawsuits have been filed against the college by certain students who believe that the school is discriminating against them. They call themselves the Students for Fair Admissions, and they are the latest litigious venture of conservative legal strategist, Edward Blum.
And the case might just be bound for the Supreme Court.
Because, according to them, Harvard sets a decidedly higher bar for admitting Asian-American students than it does for white applicants. According to them, it's harder for Asians to get accepted. Which is to say, if your last name is something like Li, Zhang, Liu, Yamamoto, Takahashi or Kim, if your skin isn’t pasty white, and your ancestors came from somewhere designated “Eastern,” well, tough luck kid. Because your GPA and SAT scores need to be higher, and you need to be involved successfully in more activities and organizations than your white counterparts, if you want to call yourself a “Crimson” — or so the suit alleges.
Of course, Harvard is denying all this. It says the admissions process is fair, that it looks at each student as a “whole person” and that these Students for Fair Admissions have no true basis to sue.
Rachael Dane, a spokeswoman for Harvard, told the New York Times: “Harvard College does not discriminate against applicants from any group in its admissions processes. We will continue to vigorously defend the right of Harvard, and other universities, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions.”
Diverse on multiple dimensions, even though compared to the averages at other Ivy League colleges around the nation, Harvard has only about half the number of Asian-American students attending. A Princeton study even found that students who identify as Asian need to score 140 points higher on their SAT’s than whites to get into private colleges like Harvard. And, get this, Harvard College itself publicly stated that, “abandoning race conscious admissions would diminish the 'excellence' of Harvard.”
So, things seem bent. And the case of Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions continues to escalate. A trial is set for October, and should this case actually end up before the Supreme Court (which seems likely) it could upend decades of affirmative action policies in colleges and universities across America. Policies that, ironically, were originally intended to promote the education of groups that suffer from discrimination.
Yes, that seems counter-intuitive. But these affirmative action laws, which were designed to promote diversity and increase access to education, are now being used by some universities to keep certain highly-academic demographics (Asians) from flooding them like the Yellow River. “We can’t take anymore Asians,” their logic goes, “Because it will compromise our diversity of students.”
Which is what makes this such a strange and complicated case.
If it were solely up to GPA’s and SAT scores, likely a large percentage of white, black, brown and other students wouldn’t stand a chance at competing to get into such renowned academic institutions. If the universities color-blinded themselves, they argue, they wouldn’t be able maintain an equally diverse student body. Asians would flush everyone else out of the market.
That’s a decent sounding argument — especially if you’re an non-Asian average student applying to Harvard.
But when it comes right down to it, there’s simply no sense in making it harder for Asians to get accepted into these colleges — even if it means they’re going to totally overrun academia. The NBA won't ever turn away black players just because there’s “too many of them” and it “compromises diversity”.
Why would schools try to turn away qualified, intelligent students for the same reasons?