Op-ed: Harvard’s anti-Asian-American microaggression

The Harvard University admissions process appears to be an ongoing microaggression against Asian-Americans.

A group called Students for Fair Admissions is suing the school for alleged racial discrimination and has filed documents in federal court making a persuasive case, based on data provided by the school.

Harvard denies it, but one of the imperatives of the affirmative action regime in college admissions is that schools never admit what they are doing.

The great and good at Harvard will insist that Asian-Americans all be called by their preferred pronouns, but they won’t afford them equal treatment in the admissions process. They will upbraid anyone daring to ask an Asian-American where he is from, but will, in effect, hold his ethnic background against him.

And they will do it by relying on the stereotype of Asian-Americans as dull, unrelatable “model students.”

According to the analysis of Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono, an expert for the plaintiffs, an Asian-American applicant who is a male, is not economically disadvantaged and has, based on his other characteristics, a 25 percent chance of getting in would see his odds markedly increase if he belonged to another group. His chances of admission would be 36 percent if he were white; 77 percent if he were Hispanic; and 95 percent if he were black.

Why is this? Among Harvard applicants, Asian-Americans have the highest average SAT scores and the highest academic index, combining the SAT and high-school performance. Somehow, though, they manage the lowest admission rates.

They supposedly fall down on their personal ratings, which includes the question of whether the applicants have a “positive personality.”

It just so happens that, per Harvard, otherwise high-achieving Asian-Americans are beset by chronically negative personalities. It’s amazing that they somehow manage to do well in school and extensively participate in extracurricular activities despite their glum outlook and downbeat personas. Alumni interviewers who actually meet them tend to rate them highly. No matter.

Harvard’s “holistic” approach to admissions allows it to adjust the knobs to get the demographic mix that it prefers. There’s precedent for this. In the 1920s, as a report of the Center for Equal Opportunity notes, Harvard changed its admissions process away from an exclusive focus on academics to considering the whole person, which allowed it to reverse an unwelcome run-up in Jewish admissions and keep the percentage of Jews in the student body at about 15 percent for decades.

Like the Jews before them, Asian-Americans are deemed “unclubbable” by many elite universities seeking to keep their admissions down.

The Center for Equal Opportunity report notes the contrast between Caltech, which doesn’t have affirmative action, and Harvard, which does. At Caltech, Asian-Americans make up more than 40 percent of undergraduates, a proportion that has grown robustly since 2000. At Harvard, Asian-American representation topped out at 21 percent in 1993, before dipping below 20 percent for a couple of decades (it’s now 22 percent).

A 2013 internal Harvard analysis, according to the lawsuit, said that Asian-Americans would make up 43 percent of admissions if academics alone were the factor.

If Harvard applied its own standards to Harvard, it would be appalled by how it’s disadvantaging members of a minority group. It would encourage protests. It would refer itself for racial bias training. It would apologize and grovel and hope it all could be a teaching moment. But none of this will happen because it could lead to the admission of “too many Asians,” the scenario that its admissions policies and related subterfuge are designed to prevent.

The lawsuit includes an exchange with a teacher at exclusive Stuyvesant High School in New York City who breaks down and cries when she’s shown data on how much less likely her Asian students are to make it into Harvard. She’s upset by the unfairness of it — would that Harvard felt the same way.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: September is National Recovery Month

The biggest challenge when talking about recovery is the truth that one… Continue reading

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is seen in this Dec. 19, 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Opinion: Alaska will greatly benefit from historic infrastructure bill

I was able to add many provisions to our bipartisan bill that are targeted to help Alaska.