Harvard Biased Against Asian-Americans, Applicants Say in Court

Harvard Biased Against Asian-Americans, Applicants Say in Court

Harvard University has conducted internal research involving their enrolment process after being sued by non-profit organization Students for Fair Admissions.

But Harvard is attacking the group's analysis and says it has countering evidence disproving discrimination, in a closely watched case involving affirmative action.

The reports were filed in Boston's federal court as both parties attempted to persuade a judge to end the suit before it reaches trial, which has been scheduled to start in October.

The group states that Harvard assigns Asian American students the lowest score of any other racial group based on traits such as "positive personality" and "likability".

Students for Fair Admissions asserted on Friday that Harvard conducted an internal investigation in 2013 that found its admissions system was biased against Asian-Americans but that it then "killed the investigation and buried the reports".

Putting the alleged disparity in perspective, SFFA claims that an Asian-American male applicant to Harvard with a 25 percent chance of admission would actually have a much better chance if he were of another race: 35 percent chance if he was Caucasion, 75 percent if he were Hispanic, and 95 percent chance if he were African-American. It called the 2013 report "preliminary and incomplete" and said that it was done with limited admissions data.

The New York Times reported Friday that the group claimed it analyzed more than 160,000 student records and found that Asian-Americans ranked lower on items like being "widely respected".

Asian-Americans accounted for about 23 percent of the students admitted into Harvard this past spring.

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Harvard says that its admissions process is legal - and it notes that the plaintiff group, the Students for Fair Admissions, is backed by the same activist who previously challenged the University of Texas' affirmative action policy.

Instead, Harvard sought its own study from David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who found no evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans.

Yet he notes that Harvard alumni who interview applicants and provide separate ratings scored Asian-Americans higher than whites overall, a contrast that Arcidiacono says suggests bias.

After accounting for Harvard's preference for recruited athletes and legacy applicants, the proportion of whites went up, while the share of Asian-Americans fell to 31 percent.

The group in its 2014 complaint said Harvard defines "Asian Americans" as including individuals of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong or Indian descent.

"Mr. Blum and his organization's incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College's whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations that directly counter his arguments", said Anna Cowenhoven, a spokeswoman for Harvard. When extracurricular activities and personal ratings were considered, the percentage of Asian-Americans dropped to 26 percent. In previous lawsuits, such as against the University of Texas, Blum enlisted white students as plaintiffs.

Faust said the university's admissions team uses an approach upheld by the Supreme Court, "one that relies on broad and extensive outreach to exceptional students in order to attract excellence from all backgrounds". "We believe that the rest of the evidence will be released in the next few weeks, and it will further confirm that Harvard is in deliberate violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act".

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