Does Harvard Discriminate Against Asians? Let’s Find Out.

Applying to college or university can be very stressful. Your application focuses on your achievements– both as a student and as a person in general. Surely, your race wouldn’t be the dominating factor of your acceptance or rejection, right? Well, let’s take a walk down memory lane. In 2014, a case against Harvard filed by Students for Fair Admissions and other plaintiffs claimed that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans in their undergraduate application process. While Harvard IS a private faculty, they still receive federal funding, which forces them to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strictly forbids racial discrimination during the admissions process. Despite this law, racial admissions policies are still legal, but they only exist to serve certain purposes such as governmental use (statistics), diversity, etc. It is illegal, however, to inflict racial quotas to lower the chances of accepting certain racial groups; in Harvard’s case– Asian-Americans. 

Harvard claimed that they do not discriminate against Asian-Americans at all. However, many Asian-American applicants had higher grades and more impressive extracurricular activities than other applicants of other racial groups, but they still fell short in the eyes of Harvard. Harvard addressed this by claiming that this was because Asian-Americans had significantly lower scores when rating personality traits, which was a significant reason as to why many Asian-Americans were not getting accepted. Despite this, Dr. Arcidiacono from Duke University found that if Asian-American applicants were held to the same standards as their white counterparts, their chances of earning a 2 or higher on the personality component of the admissions process would increase by 21%. From this, if Harvard applied this standard to Asian-American applicants to all parts of the admissions process, “an Asian-American male applicant with a 25% chance of admission would see his chance increase to 31.7%.”

Regardless of the statistics laid out, Harvard continued to claim they have not discriminated against Asian-Americans applicants. In fact, within the last decade, the admittance of Asian-Americans has risen from 17% to 21% at Harvard. 

Nevertheless, after a brutal court battle, the final verdict was determined in October 2019. Federal Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled that while the college admissions process isn’t perfect, Harvard ultimately does not discriminate against Asian-Americans. Instead, Asian-Americans “did not possess the personal qualities that Harvard is looking for at the same rate as white applicants.” 

Every day, Asian-Americans must feed into the “model minority” stereotype just to receive higher education. They must consistently score higher than applicants of other racial groups on tests and have more impressive extracurriculars just to be considered on the same level as other applicants.

With all things considered, it is unfair to consider the college admissions process as a meritocratic system when Asian-Americans have been and continue to be held to a much higher standard than other racial groups.


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