Thursday, October 11, 2018

Asian-Americans and the Secrets of Getting Into Harvard

This is really interesting.

At WSJ, "The Secrets of Getting Into Harvard Were Once Closely Guarded. That’s About to Change" (and see this alternative link):

This year, 42,749 students applied to Harvard College, and only 1,962 were admitted. How Harvard decides who makes the cut has long been a mystery.

That’s about to change. A trial beginning Monday in Boston federal court will examine how the elite institution uses race to shape its student body. It will force Harvard to spill details about its admissions practices.

The case has transfixed the world of higher education—both for the peek it provides into a process cloaked in secrecy, and the prospect that the court decision will upend the admissions practices of other colleges as well.

A lawsuit accuses Harvard University of illegally discriminating against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard than students of other races. Harvard denies the accusation, saying race is just one of a complex matrix of factors it considers before handing out its coveted acceptances.

Harvard uses what it calls a holistic approach to admissions, considering not only an applicant’s academic record and test scores but also activities, formative experiences and personal attributes. The model is widely used by other top colleges.

Elite colleges, 60% of which consider race in admissions, say the trial’s outcome could threaten their autonomy to craft undergraduate classes. If forced to exclude race from admissions considerations, many schools say, their student demographics would change significantly.

For years, Harvard has fought against the public release of documents showing the inner workings of its admissions office. Court filings in advance of the trial offer tantalizing details about how Harvard rates prospective students and how it considers race. The trial is expected to shed light on the magnitude of admission preferences for athletes, children of alumni and applicants with connections to major donors.

Among the more controversial aspects of the admissions process: Each applicant receives a “personal rating” reflecting, in part, an analysis of personality traits such as humor, courage and kindness.

The plaintiffs claim that Harvard’s own data show Asian-Americans received the highest academic and extracurricular ratings of any racial group, but the lowest personal ratings. In court filings, Harvard has attributed lower Asian-American personal scores to “unobservable factors” that come through in teacher recommendations, applicants’ essays and interviews, which are also factored into the rating.

The lawsuit seeks to ban Harvard from considering race in future admissions decisions. It was brought by a nonprofit group, led by a conservative legal strategist, whose members include Asian-Americans rejected by Harvard.

Over the past 40 years, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that universities can consider an applicant’s race to promote the educational benefits that flow from diverse campuses, including better preparing students for the workforce.

The presidents of Yale University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others, have filed a brief in support of Harvard, arguing that prohibiting colleges from weighing race in admissions would represent an “extraordinary infringement on universities’ academic freedom.”

The Justice Department has weighed in on the other side, filing a “statement of interest” supporting the plaintiffs. It launched its own civil-rights investigation last year into whether Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The Education and Justice Departments also recently opened a similar investigation into Yale.

A senior Justice Department official said the investigations are a priority for its Civil Rights Division. Harvard’s lawyers have called the government’s actions a “thinly veiled attack” on Supreme Court precedent and “so outside ordinary practices.”

California banned its public universities from considering race in admissions two decades ago. Since then, University of California, Berkeley has grown by roughly 8,800 undergraduates but has about 275 fewer black students. At the private California Institute of Technology, which says academics are the most important admissions criterion, 43% of the undergraduate population last year was Asian-American.

Harvard said in a court filing that eliminating affirmative action would give the biggest boost to white students, increasing their share in a recent admitted class to 48%, from 40%. The share of Asian-Americans would rise to 27%, from 24%, while African-Americans would drop to 6%, from 14%, and Hispanics to 9%, from 14%.

The lawsuit was brought in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit run by Edward Blum. Mr. Blum has funded other challenges to affirmative action, including a Supreme Court case involving Abigail Fisher, a white applicant rejected from the University of Texas...
Wow, this is major.


I'm voting with the plaintiffs. Discrimination is wrong. The Asian students are being punished for being successful. Next to blacks and Native Americans, Asian-Americans have faced some of the worst racial discrimination in American history. It's reprehensible that they're being made to pay for the radical left's policies of diversity and "affirmative action," which benefit those who're less well prepared for the rigors of elite higher educaion.