Education, Human Rights, Politics

Asian-Americans’ Unrequited Love of Harvard

Harvard is known as the Ivy League’s Ivy. It is toasted as the gold standard, not only in education, but in academic culture—in visibility as the pinnacle of academic achievement in the entire world. It’s the #1 best-endowed school in the world, with a 400-year history that has produced some of the world’s most powerful and influential people of all time.

But to the United States’ 22 million Asian-Americans, Harvard means something even more.  Entire industries have been formed to tutor Asian kids to get into Harvard—and Princeton and Yale. Bestselling memoirs like Harvard Girl and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother have commented on Asian parents’ ceaseless devotion to getting their kids to breathe the rarefied air of Cambridge, Massachusetts. To these Asian parents, deeply committed to ideas of competition and meritocracy, Harvard represents their ultimate prize.

All this power, all this adoration, levelled upon one institution—Harvard is Asian-American culture’s king, and how does it treat its subjects?

“Harvard never accepts Asian guys,” says Kenneth Xu (no relation to the author) says. Xu is a graduate of the ultra-competitive North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, where he is surrounded by other competitive Asians like him. He grew up in a community in which Harvard’s bias against Asians was well-understood. “Everyone in the local Chinese community knows that the application process is much more competitive for Asians, but I was taught not to complain,” he adds.

But someone did. In April, an Asian-American group called Students for Fair Admission filed a lawsuit against Harvard, alleging that its admissions practices have discriminated against Asian kids for decades. On August 30, the Department of Justice filed a brief in support of Students for Fair Admission. Now, on October 15, the case is slated to go to Massachusetts Federal Court for oral arguments, with the potential to go to the Supreme Court if things get murky.

After Harvard’s admissions documents were released to the public, confirming through its own internal review that an Asian-American is significantly less likely to be accepted than if race were not a factor in his or her admissions process, Asian-Americans across the United States, including Xu, spoke out. “I think I can speak for college admissions consultants when I say that none of us were shocked,” he wrote in the New York Times about the Harvard investigation.

Another Asian-American, J. Cui, wrote: “This is personal to me.” He claims to have been wait-listed from Harvard despite perfect SAT scores, outstanding grades, and a litany of extracurricular leadership. This was while two athletes with far worse credentials got in. The letter is understandably tinged with the bitterness and resentment of someone who feels utterly cheated.

This is bigger than Harvard. Asian-Americans see the Harvard lawsuit as just the first step in the eventual toppling of the entire elite school racket against their race. In April, the Center for Equal Opportunity (a conservative think tank) released a study confirming what has long been common knowledge in the Asian-American community: it’s not just Harvard. Elite schools like MIT, Yale, and Princeton appear to also be discriminating against Asian-Americans in some form, keeping their Asian admissions down to a ratio that reflects what each college believes ought to be an acceptable balance in the racial composition of its students.

Elite colleges’ purposeful suppression of Asian-American admissions—kept to around half of the percentage of Asian-Americans that would be admitted given no racial considerations in the process, according to DOJ documents—has consequences beyond simply that of Harvard’s own campus. Harvard’s suppression creates voids of jealousy that burn within Asian-American communities nationwide. It betrays the ideals of equal treatment and meritocracy that these colleges once helped shape. And it makes Asian-Americans despise themselves for the very thing they can’t change—their race.

*     *     *

Some Asian-Americans play the elite colleges’ game by its unfair rules, embracing the lottery-ticket feel of a spot by going to amazing lengths to get noticed.

Samuel Dai, a graduate of Princeton High School in Princeton, NJ, knew that his top goal was to get into Princeton, another college implicated in this elite admissions scandal. He quickly and effectively compiled a record of achievement at his high school, becoming the top performer at his Science Bowl team, wining several medals in student achievement, and taking courses at Princeton University even before he graduated from the neighboring high school.

“I knew I was better than other people [who got into Princeton] in terms of what a college student would be,” he says. But then again, he adds, “most of us thought we were the cream of the crop.”

But even stretched to these lengths, Asian kids don’t always—or even usually—get what they deserve. And when they don’t, it can crush them. Dai started having doubts about whether he would get into Princeton as soon as he submitted the application. Suddenly, he saw holes in his resume he previously didn’t think were there. Suddenly, his essay looked less-than-pristine. He developed an “all-or-nothing mentality” towards Princeton—in order to cope, he started thinking, illogically, that “if I stacked it all [on Princeton], I’ll get in.” That is, if he told himself constantly that he was better, that he had no chance of failure, he couldn’t fail.

But he did. On December 18, he received a deferral letter from Princeton’s early-action admissions department. (Princeton has only a minute chance of admitting people into campus after deferring them in the early-admissions stage.) “I went to one of the stairwells, called my best friend, and I started crying … I had a mental breakdown,” Dai says. “Being rejected from your early decision [college] makes you feel like you’re not worth it.”

Maybe he overreacted.  But Dai’s experience resonates with Asian-American kids growing up in college-prep hotboxes all over the country. Even when they’re the best, they’re not the best. In fact, they’re still not good enough. That is the signature feeling of the high-achieving Asian elite-school hopefuls.

It gets to the point where some Asians choose to rebel from this college stress culture. There is a group of Asian-Americans at various colleges across America who have started a movement called “Not a Model Minority.” The idea is to defuse stereotypes of every Asian-American being the kind of hardworking, studious, nerdy student that characterizes many perceptions of Asians—including that of admissions counselors.

When I first got to college, I didn’t understand Not a Model Minority. I didn’t understand why Asian-Americans would found an organization that tries to paint them as less achieving than they are perceived. But now I do understand. The “model minority” myth is not helpful to Asians. Instead, it is used by institutions such as Harvard to justify discrimination.

But truly, how distorted, how perverted, must a system be when members of a minority group try to position themselves as less smart and diligent than they actually are? Or how unhealthy can a system be when a student must prove that he isn’t “like the others” of his race in order to have a fighting chance? When a student must learn to renounce his own race and culture?

And yet here we are.

*     *     *

Harvard and other elite colleges across the United States claim they do not employ any such discriminatory policies. They say they use race in admissions only as a vehicle for a “diverse” student body, not because they dislike Asians or their personalities. That may well be true. Few believe these elite colleges have a truly active animus against Asians. But that doesn’t make their behavior any less insidious.

In denying anti-Asian prejudice, Harvard mentions that their admissions model is guided by the promise of a “diverse” student body. “Harvard remains committed to enrolling diverse classes of students,” said Rachael Dane, a spokeswoman for the university. “To become leaders in our diverse society, students must have the ability to work with people from different backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives.”

Dane refused to budge on the question of whether or not Harvard should be held accountable for its racial balancing policies. Robert W. Iuliano, senior vice president and general counsel for Harvard University, stated in a letter to the New York Times that: “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.” This, then, is Harvard’s justification for applying race-based standards unevenly across various ethnic groups. Diversity.

Harvard and other elite colleges defend the diversity rationale with a peculiar vehemence. They cite the famous affirmative action case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and its successor, Grutter v. Bollinger, as justification enough to give colleges who take government money (Harvard takes $500 million in government money annually) broad authority to implement racial “goals” as they see fit. In particular, they point to the distinction that the Bakke case and its corresponding legal opinion drew between racial “quotas” (disallowed by Bakke) and “goals” (allowed by Bakke). Quotas, the reasoning runs, are hard and fast, while goals are “flexible.” Never mind that Harvard has maintained a rigid 18-19 percent ratio of Asians in its incoming freshmen classes for past ten years—perhaps the opposite of “flexible.”

Nevertheless, Harvard has had its way for the past 30 years. Subjected only to the flimsiest of anti-discrimination standards, and emboldened by reassurances handed down by the highest court in the land, Harvard has been awarded permission to—if we might borrow a word used by a Harvard Law Review article on the subject—sculpt its incoming class to its liking, particularly with respect to race and ethnicity.

Why does Harvard care so much about having the ability to judge people on the basis of their race? The answer lies in the philosophy that undergirds Harvard’s rationale for existence.  Harvard believes, as most colleges do, that it is responsible for caretaking and cultivating the next generation of thought leaders and world influencers. They want to midwife a world in which all races are balanced in power and influence, and they feel a responsibility to shepherd this vision of grand racial restructuring—under their own terms and ratios, of course. Their determination? Asians may come to Harvard until they reach about 20 percent of their student body. Then they become “overrepresented” and need to be “balanced.”

Where its arrogance goes too far, however, is now the subject of this lawsuit. Harvard’s penchant for racial balancing has been well documented for decades. According to 30 years of data, Harvard has kept its Asian population artificially low since at least 1990. New evidence from Harvard’s recently released internal reports, however, describes how Harvard manages to justify this kind of discrimination, when the United States Supreme Court so clearly ruled against the use of racial quotas in admissions in Bakke.

Harvard uses several “ratings” to determine who is eventually admitted to the college: academics, extracurriculars, and the “personal” rating are the top three. According to Harvard’s own internal documentation, Asian-Americans fare extraordinarily well on both academics and extracurriculars, suggesting smooth sailing in admissions. However, on the personal rating, which emphasizes subjective evaluations on “likability,” “courage,” and being an “attractive” person, Asians fare extremely poorly. And by Harvard’s own admission to the Department of Justice, it is that “personal” rating that determines selection more than anything else.

So fluky is this discrepancy in the personal rating that the Department of Justice was unable to link these low scores to any observable factors in the applications whatsoever. Their conclusion is rather obvious to the many Asian-Americans across the United States: it must be race. Because we’re “the Model Minority,” the kiss-up minority, the minority that does everything just to get into Harvard. The desperate unrequited love that is easy to reject, because it will keep coming back.

It is increasingly clear to all that Harvard has been lying about its commitment to racial nondiscrimination. They have not only been lying, but they have been getting away with it too—and for a half-century, no less. The effects of this betrayal are real and severe for an Asian-American community that has grown up in its shadow, only to find out that the vision Harvard has for its students is one that excludes them.

*     *     *

Many Asian students, while disappointed in Harvard, don’t feel the wave of immense rage incidents of injustice can often incite. Instead, they feel a kind of jaded cynicism. “There’re a lot of Asians who are interested in science and math,” says Samuel Dai, who is pursuing a science degree at Carnegie-Mellon University, which wasn’t his first choice. “My resume wasn’t high enough compared to the competition,” he said matter-of-factly.

The betrayal doesn’t come simply from the discrimination itself but rather the messaging Harvard has sent out their entire waking adult lives: the idea that Harvard is committed to facilitate the entry of a “diverse” class of students—which they didn’t realize meant exclusivity rather than inclusivity in their case. Harvard’s lofty goals were dishonest; their claims to diversity were hypocritical.

It is not even that these Asian-Americans are only fighting for more representation in elite colleges, though this is the catalyzing incident. They want to live in a fair society. One that accurately represents the promise of the American Dream—that if you work hard, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your ambitions. This dream is presently compromized—and worse yet, it is compromized by the very institutions that claim to exemplify it.

“The worst part is, they’re not even setting standards based on things we can change about ourselves,” says Liu Ruohong. Ruohong is an Asian-American mother and a member of an all-Asian-American group called Association for Education Fairness, which campaigns for equal treatment in education. “We’ve got to stand up for our children.”

So if educational attainment is such a big issue in the Asian-American community, and Asian-Americans have known about discrimination for so long, why has nothing been done about it?

To this question, the Asian-Americans admit they have no easy answers. I spoke with Eva Guo, the leader of the Association for Education Fairness, to find out her perspective. Guo, whose organization is devoted to fighting unmeritocratic and unfair admissions policies in high schools, believes that part of the answer lies in Asian-Americans’ own mentality. “It’s something we need to work on,” she admits. “Asian-Americans aren’t very good at being loud. But we need to make our voice heard.” Asian-American protest and political activism doesn’t have as much precedent as that of Black and Hispanic Americans.

But the lack of exposure cannot be completely blamed on Asian-Americans themselves. Put simply, stories such as these are often either ignored or misunderstood by the national media.  First of all, Asian-American views on issues are not often featured on hot political topics. The Pew Research Center’s study of views on immigration, racial discrimination, and health care include breakdowns to white, black, and Hispanic Americans, but exclude Asian-American viewpoints, even though Asian-Americans are projected to be the nation’s largest immigrant group by 2050. Typical discussions of racial disparities focus largely on black and white Americans (and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics), but almost never train their eyes on Asian-Americans.

Therefore, discussion of the Asian-American experience too often veers into coat-tailing “black experience” stories or, more especially, a typical “Person of Color” narrative. Person of Color narratives, which are currently fashionable, especially in mainstream journalism and academia, tend to emphasize victimhood and oppression, which. This could be construed as a frame for the experiences of Asian-Americans in admissions, but is not a helpful way of understanding the issue.

Asian-Americans don’t necessarily think of themselves as “victims” of Harvard’s racist policies. They’re more concerned with the idea of merit—they want their admission to be judged on their resume of accomplishments, not their race. They don’t feel “oppressed” by the system or trapped in a zero-sum world—after all, college isn’t all that the world has to offer. Rather, they feel indignant and cheated.

Their betrayal by Harvard is not meant to be an all-encompassing The System Is Against Us kind of story, and it would be a mistake to understand it that way. Rather, it should be seen clearly for what it is—a fixable problem that hasn’t been fixed. Governments can do their part by denying their $500 million of federal funding to Harvard and other elite colleges unless they comply with explicit non-racial-balancing provisions. The Department of Justice has already sided with the Asian-American group, Students For Fair Admissions, in its current lawsuit. Harvard can do its part by making its admissions system more honest, transparent, and meritocratic, and publicizing those changes in the name of public accountability. And ordinary Americans can do their part by seeing through the false promise of “holistic admissions,” which is just another tool universities employ to admit according to their personal beliefs and prejudices rather than on merit.

But Asian-Americans, too, have a part to play in this drama over their educational futures. For a start, they should reject the elitism of schools like Harvard. The more they try to force their way in, the harder Harvard resists. They need to say to their children: “Go to the best college you can, but don’t think it defines your life.” They need learn how to walk away from the idea that an elitist education is the only way in. This may be true in China, where universities are in short supply and one of the only ways one can enter the respected ranks of business and the Communist Party. But it is not true in America, where the country’s higher education infrastructure is arguably the best in the world. Americans have options within and beyond college that allow people of any race to rise above their station.

If Asian-Americans are going to win this noble fight for meritocracy and equal treatment in admissions, they need to learn to fight, not only for themselves and their own interests, but to take their lived experience and understand it through the ideals of the American Dream. And then to raise their voice. Loud and clear for all in ivy-soaked Cambridge to hear.

 

Kenny Xu is a writer for The Federalist, covering race, identity, and culture. He is a Mathematics Major at Davidson College in Davidson, NC and a Young Voices Advocate. You can follow him on Facebook @thekennethxu and on Twitter @kennymxu

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72 Comments

  1. Circuses and Bread says

    Just another example of the sort of racism that if it occurred in business or elsewhere in society would be the subject of successful lawsuits and copious derision. But since it’s in academia and targeted against a less favored social group, it gets a pass.

    • Morgan says

      I have to disagree. This “pass” you speak of is ubiquitous.

      If business or academia in 1st world countries were truly open to the best candidates, most employees and students would come from parts of the world were life’s hardships daily test one’s mettle.

  2. The author is too polite to note one of the main reasons why Harvard caps the number of Asian students. There is a finite number of students that any university can accept, due to space and resources. If more Asian kids were allowed in, there would necessarily be fewer members of other races.

    A truly merit based application would see a few races dominating the spots available, and that just isn’t diverse!

    • Karl G says

      The elephant in the room is that a large motivation of top schools for handicapping Asian students (and a lesser extent, whites) is to be able to accept more lower-achieving and lower-ability blacks (and to a lesser extent, latinos). It’s a racial spoils system designed to benefit the more inept minority groups.

      For example, Espenshade & Chung estimated that 4/5 of spots now taken by blacks in top schools would go to Asians under race neutral admissions.

  3. Gary L Anderson says

    Diversity is for the descendants of the slaves, not for slants.

  4. https://admissionscase.harvard.edu/

    Looks like Harvard is digging in!

    Apparently:

    ” Race-neutral means less diverse

    After studying more than a dozen race-neutral alternatives, a Harvard committee found that none of these practices “could promote Harvard’s diversity-related educational objectives as well as Harvard’s … admissions program while also maintaining the standards of excellence that Harvard seeks in its student body.”

    • Pike_r says

      ” Race-neutral means less diverse”

      Engineered diversity is not true diversity. It’s just *different* homogeneity.

      I find the educational establishment’s evangelical devotion to diversity both unsupported and bananas. They repeat mantras about diversity being better, stronger, faster, vital, etc., in an effort to make it true. It’s magical thinking and ecstatic faith. Studies show superficial diversity to be of doubtful worth at best, particularly engineered diversity. When anyone questions the value of engineered diversity, the counter-argument goes:

      “You’re a racist!”

      Some amazing reasoning, that. And even if one grants the proposition that diversity is unquestionably better, defining what that means is hopeless, when one actually starts to think about it.

      Are we talking about cognitive diversity? In that case, Harvard should be admitting stupid people. Those with lower IQs think differently, and in some ways, more soundly than those with very high IQs. But you’ll find precious few if any at the Ol’ Crimson.

      How about neurological diversity? Are those with verifiable cognitive differences like Aspergers, schizotypy, right-hemisphere dominance, and the like being factored in?

      How about including the MOST under-represented group in colleges today, those of Scotch-Irish ancestry from Appalachia (“rednecks” and “hillbillies”)?

      The list goes on. The truth is Harvard et al. don’t give a hoot about diversity. They care about how they LOOK. They care about their prestige, their endowment, their social justice bona fides.

      This is a game in which everyone ends up losing in the end. It’s exhausting, divisive, and keeps society from prospering. I hope we can overcome this cranio-rectal insertion soon and look for common good rather than this fantasy football Ivy League we’ve got going.

      • Simon K. Corelli says

        Lol. “Cranio-rectal insertion.” Well said, sir, well said. I mean, the rest of your article was a well-rounded, thoughtful piece of dialectic. But that butthead euphemism…really stirs the soul.

  5. peterschaeffer says

    Let’s say that Harvard stopped discriminating against Asians, what would then happen? Presumably Asian enrollment would substantially increase. Harvard would then have to make a rather tough decision between two courses of action.

    1. Harvard could choose to maintain preferences for Blacks and Hispanics. However, this would lead to a rather large decline in white enrollment.

    2. Harvard could abandon preferences and simply admit students based on merit. Of course, merit need not be limited to academic merit. However, merit as a proxy for skin color would have to go.

    Say Harvard, went the first route. Since there would be no room (substantially less actually) left for white students, Harvard would face a loss of support from upscale white liberal parents. Upscale white liberal parents might come to regard AA and Open Borders as a threat to their kids. They might decide that “Trump isn’t entirely wrong”. That’s an almost unthinkable outcome for the folks who run Harvard.

    Say Harvard, went the second route. Any material decline in Black and Hispanic enrollment would be hugely embarrassing and upsetting.

    These dismal choices put Harvard’s administrators between a rock and hard place. So far, they have escaped this quandary / predicament by rigging the system against Asians. However, that door may be closing.

    I don’t think that the Harvard folks believe for a minute that discrimination against Asians is justified or virtuous (OK, they probably do believe that for a minute or so). I don’t think they are anti-Asian bigots (at least most of them) either.

    However, I do think they want to avoid (at almost any cost) having to choose between door 1 and door 2. Its sad that their moral compass allows them to think that sacrificing Asians is OK. However, that seems to be the reality of the situation.

    This analysis isn’t original on my part. I read it online. However, I don’t see it in any of the articles about the Harvard case. Based on their comments, I do think Harvard’s administrators completely embrace my analysis. Which is why they want to maintain the status quo.

    • D.B. Cooper says

      @peterschaeffer

      I appreciate you sharing the information. I’ve, yet, to come across it, myself. They are interesting propositions, to be sure; although it seems to me – granting the Court affirms the Plaintiff’s position – the actuality of the first (1) is exceedingly doubtful; while some variant of the second (2) will almost assuredly be the case.

      As to the first, the idea that Harvard would dip its toe back into those diseased waters is as absurd as it is cruel, even for those indignant moral busybodies; which, on reflection, might actually support the claim, since they’d be sticking it to the devil Whitey this time. But who knows? The second still seems more likely, but I’m not as confident as I was.

      • peterschaeffer says

        DBC, I ran my ideas past some academic folks with a real first-hand knowledge of the situation. They agreed with my analysis (which I picked up from others). Basically, the Affirmative Action crowd is so committed to quotas, that they are willing to sacrifice Asians to achieve their goals. Sadly, more than a few Asians are willing to play along with this ‘peculiar institution’.

        My guess is that Harvard goes for door 1, if the courts rule against it.

        However, my real guess is that Harvard just ignores the courts. You might think that is impossible. However, unless a judge or judges are willing to take over Harvard or jail recalcitrant administrators they will simply go on maintaining the status quo.

        By contrast, if Asian students started to engage in aggressive protests, I think Harvard would back down rather quickly. The people running Harvard have a virtually infinite sense of self-regard. Being attacked by a bunch of courts (aided by the Trump administration) will reinforce their sense of moral superiority. Students with picket signs would produce genuine self-doubt in short order.

    • Edward says

      Affirmative action is banned in California. If they can do it there, why can’t they do it at Harvard and other Ivy League universities?

      However, it should be noted that if the Asian-Americans win this case, there is no guarantee that it will end affirmative action. Rather, the covert discrimination against Asians, based mainly on “personality ratings” that are applied by people in the admissions office (and not by interviewers who tend to rate Asian personalities comparably to those of other races), may be the only thing that is halted.

      According to Harvard’s own 2013 investigation, this would increase the proportion of Asian-Americans in Harvard by 5.4%. The proportion of African-Americans would fall by 0.53%, Hispanics by 1.45% and Whites by 2.60%. So, this wouldn’t be a massive change.

      Even taking into account legacy/athlete admissions and extracurricular/personal ratings, African-Americans would only make up 2.36% of the student body. They get boosted to 11% via affirmative action. Similarly, Hispanics would only make up 4.07% of the student body in the absence of affirmative action, but make up 10% with affirmative action.

      Thus, if this case does not topple affirmative action but merely ends the blatant discrimination against Asian-Americans, then the changes will be minor to each of the other groups. However, a 5.4% increase in representation for Asian-Americans would be a moderate step forward.

      Of course, in a purely meritocratic system such as that in California, Asian-Americans would make up 40-45% of the student body. In UC Berkeley, Chinese-Americans alone make up 18% of the student population. Indian-Americans alone make up 11% of the student body.

      • Innominata says

        @Edward

        “Affirmative action is banned in California.”

        You might find Heather MacDonald’s new book “The Diversity Delusion” very interesting. She talks about affirmative action in California a good deal … and all the workarounds the universities found to get around it and bring in non-Asian minorities based on non-meritocratic criteria anyway.

        • meerkat says

          Exactly. When I read stuff like that, it actually makes me wish for official state affirmative action policies, even though I’m against the concept in the first place and I think it hurts a lot of the people it’s designed to help by putting them in academic situations for which they are unprepared. So why would I want affirmative action to be official government policy? Because the alternative is affirmative action by stealth thanks to cadres of woke university admins. The reason that the discrimination against Asians has been able to continue for decades is that it happens unofficially, behind closed doors, so it was hard for its opponents to prove anything.

          If university administrators were allowed to openly argue for diversity being a good in and of itself, then at least there could be a process of negotiation between the people who want pure meritocracy and those who argue for (ethnic) diversity at elite schools being valuable to society. We’d meet somewhere in the middle and in all likelihood no one would be completely happy with the end result, but I think it would actually be better than the current state of affairs.

          At present situation reminds me very much of the mainstream media’s attitude towards blasphemous images of Mohammad. The very people who style themselves as defenders of press freedom against Trump are strangely MIA when it comes to defending free speech against violent Muslims. That’s understandable, as being scolded by an incoherent narcissist is a lot less scary than being beheaded, but the end result is that we in the west live in a society that in some ways resembles an Islamic theocracy.

          Think about it. if we lived in a society where it was illegal to publish images of Mohammad, would our newsstands have looked any different than they did the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks? Not at all. So the mainstream media in the west is effectively subject to Islamic blasphemy laws, they just aren’t official laws, even though the end result is the same. But because they are unofficial, these laws can’t be challenged in legislatures or in the courts, and so they persist, in large part because they are unofficial.

        • Edward says

          Thank you for your reply. That’s true: I looked into other universities in California and their statistics are rather different to those of Caltech and UC Berkeley. That said, given that Asians are overrepresented wherever they go, and exceptionally overrepresented at Caltech and UC Berkeley, it shouldn’t be too surprising if not all universities have Asian-American proportions of 40-45%. Eventually, the number of Asians will run out!

      • Harvard has slowly raised Asian admission over the last few years, its peaking up a little above what is clearly a 20% quota. 30% Asian might represent a compromise between 40% and the current 20%, but how do you get there without admitting to obvious horse trading.

        Non-legacy Whites are already very underrepresented at Harvard. Even if you count Jews as White, which you really shouldn’t. Probably half of the white numbers are Jewish, so you’ve got a majority of the countries demographics only getting say 25% of the slots. And we all know what % of that 25% is legacies/athletes/rich whites who don’t like middle America. If Harvard NEEDS the black % to be as high as it is so it has leaders from a significant demographic, surely it needs more leaders from the main demographic group of the whole country.

        I won’t even get into how most of the people of color are really foreign oligarchs kids.

        If Harvard was actually just blatant about it they would admit that it’s better to allow Asians “A Place in the Sun” under some deal where the Asian % goes from 20% to 30% and the burden of that 10% gets shared by all the remaining groups. You could even take a chunk out of foreign student % and maybe increase the size of Harvards class some (they haven’t increased class sizes despite a larger applicant population). This would keep enough rich people at Harvard to pair with the smart Asian kids that will do their STEM for them in exchange for connections, while still having enough token oligarchs kids from third world brown countries to pride yourself on diversity.

        Of course that requires self awareness (which they may not have) and a willingness to take risks. Asians are a threat. At 40% its obvious they would represent a self sustaining power base. They might not have to take orders anymore! They are suppose to do the boring work while the legacies remain the owners! Whose to say 30% isn’t too much. Rich white liberals just seem to freak out whenever Asian % gets above 20%, even if it’s they’re damn private pre-school in Manhattan. There are over a billion Chinese! They own our debt! We can’t let them get to uppidy!

    • 3. Harvard goes to race neutral admissions, then minorities take academics more seriously and earn their way in on merit.

      Hilarious that this isn’t even mentioned as a possibility.

      • Jay Salhi says

        You raise a very good point. Getting rid of reverse discrimination (aka affirmative action) and all the diversity distractions that go with it might foster a healthy discussion about why certain groups underachieve academically and what can be done to improve their performance.

  6. Adrian E. says

    „But it is not true in America, where the country’s higher education infrastructure is arguably the best in the world.“

    That is absurd. At every level of education, the US is far below both Western and Eastern Europe. It starts with high school. I don’t have any statistics at hand (but surely, the US is very far from being among the best in Pisa tests), but I know a lot of anecdotes of young people from countries like Switzerland and Russia who went to school exchange programs and discovered that the level in the US is far below the one in their home country for the same age group. In their home country, they were good, but not extraordinary pupils, but in the US, they were suddenly absolutely excellent and won regional prizes in certain subjects because their previous preparation in a Swiss or Russian school was incomparably better than the preparation of those who were handicapped by always having attended a US school.

    It continues at college and universities. European students who want to study in the US are warned that most courses in US universities are of the dumbed-down superficial kind that is only found in some introductory courses in Europe. But of course, since already the level of education is already lower in the US at school, we should not be surprised that it is also lower at college and university, unlike in other parts of the developed world, in the US, there is no solid general education higher education can build on.

    For the time being, the US can try to help by pumping enormous amounts of money (mostly from debt) into its sub-par education systemand by attracting students from other countries with better schools to STEM doctoral courses. But in the long run, the lower level of education in the US (compared to Europe, Russia, China) will inevitably also lead to a lower standard of living (after the US bubble bursts) compared to the countries with better education systems. I don’t know whether Americans will be ready to accept this as normal or whether their exceptionalist ideology will lead them to think that they must be superior despite their inferior educational achievements and will try to threaten the better-educated countries militarily.

    • Curtis H. says

      I think it depends on what schools you are talking about. I studied mathematics at the University of Chicago, and there are very few European schools which have an equally rigorous undergraduate math curriculum.

    • R. Pryne says

      @ Adrian E.

      “That is absurd. At every level of education, the US is far below both Western and Eastern Europe. It starts with high school. I don’t have any statistics at hand (but surely, the US is very far from being among the best in Pisa tests), but I know a lot of anecdotes of young people from countries like Switzerland and Russia who went to school exchange programs and discovered that the level in the US is far below the one in their home country for the same age group. In their home country, they were good, but not extraordinary pupils, but in the US, they were suddenly absolutely excellent and won regional prizes in certain subjects because their previous preparation in a Swiss or Russian school was incomparably better than the preparation of those who were handicapped by always having attended a US school.
      It continues at college and universities. European students who want to study in the US are warned that most courses in US universities are of the dumbed-down superficial kind that is only found in some introductory courses in Europe. But of course, since already the level of education is already lower in the US at school, we should not be surprised that it is also lower at college and university, unlike in other parts of the developed world, in the US, there is no solid general education higher education can build on.
      For the time being, the US can try to help by pumping enormous amounts of money (mostly from debt) into its sub-par education systemand by attracting students from other countries with better schools to STEM doctoral courses. But in the long run, the lower level of education in the US (compared to Europe, Russia, China) will inevitably also lead to a lower standard of living (after the US bubble bursts) compared to the countries with better education systems. I don’t know whether Americans will be ready to accept this as normal or whether their exceptionalist ideology will lead them to think that they must be superior despite their inferior educational achievements and will try to threaten the better-educated countries militarily.”

      Cool story, brah.

    • Sorry have to disagree. American universities are still the best in the world on average. This is why so many non-Americans come here. If Western and Eastern Europe universities were so superior, you’d see the American wealthy sending their kids there. Instead you see the reverse: the very wealthy Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Middle Easterners send their kids here.

      As for high school, you can’t work with anecdotes. Statistically, you also need to compare apples to apples. American schools, unlike other nations, educates everyone, including special needs, and includes all the data in the results, unlike most nations. I’m not saying we don’t have room for improvement. But no, we are not sub par. That’s a iie spawned by various interested parties (investors, etc).

      • This is a dubious inference, given there are other reasons for non-US parents to send their children to US universities. For example, in Taiwan, where I reside, many parents (and these parents aren’t super-wealthy necessarily) send their children to study in the US because they have relations there who will take care of them, and they feel that the whole experience of studying in the US, culturally, enhancing English skills, having a diploma from a US college, etc. is a goid investment. Thus, the actual quality of the education on offer is not the only, and may not even be the primary consideration.

        Reinforcing this point, it’s common in Taiwan for well-off parents of *under-achieving* children to be more likely to send their children to the US, as they know the strict score-based admissions system here in Taiwan is merciless. Rather than have a diploma from a second-rate Taiwanese university, a better option is a place at a US college with a solid reputation.

        Your claim would be stronger if you dropped the ‘on average’ part, as few would argue against the US having the world’s best colleges, in the form of its elite institutions, but to try and extend that quality more generally, *and* to then claim that is why the US is such an attractive destination for international students is a stretch.

    • peterschaeffer says

      AE, Unlike some of the folks commenting on this subject, I have seen the PISA data comparing U.S. high school students to their foreign counterparts. The bottom line is easy. On an apples-to-apples basis, American students are actually pretty good, but not the best in the world. See

      “The amazing truth about PISA scores: USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia” by Tino Sanandaji. Quote

      “What I have learned recently and want to share with you is that once we correct (even crudely) for demography in the 2009 PISA scores, American students outperform Western Europe by significant margins and tie with Asian students. Jump to the graphs if you don’t want to read my boring set-up and methodology.”

      Basically, mean and median US scores are strongly impacted by demographics and once you take this into account, they (US students) do rather well (but are not the best).

      However, there is another factor at work here. The US is (in many respects) highly unequal. US inequality most assuredly includes higher education. The top 1%, 0.1%, 0.01% of American students and academics are very, very good. Take a look at the distribution of Nobel prizes. The U.S. collects a disproportionate share.

      If you only used U.S. high school PISA scores, you would predict few, if any, U.S. Nobel prize winners. Yet there are many.

  7. John Craigton says

    I would like to see the (admission) data underlying the claims. Where are they? Numbers will speak for themselves.

  8. John Craigton says

    I find the US admission system strange, and very different to the best of my knowledge of European universities. I know they also have “widening participation” schemes, but I have never heard of personality based assessments. Looking for traits like “courage” seems awkward (how is that relevant to becoming scholarly trained?). Also, assessing on non-cognitive traits opens the door for applicants writing socially desirable answers.

    • Innominata says

      @Craigton

      “Looking for traits like “courage” seems awkward (how is that relevant to becoming scholarly trained?)”

      It’s not relevant. And they are not really looking for those with better personalities/courage/leadership. Those are pretexts.

      What they are really doing is making sure a big chunk of the criteria for admissions is subjective and unaccountable. That way, the administration can jigger admissions to get the right color and sex balance on the campus to satisfy their own wokeness and the NAACP, without leaving themselves open to accusations of overt discrimination and race-based admissions from the parents of highly qualified white or Asian students, conservative politicians, alumni, and other enemies of proper and just outcomes.

      All they have to do is assign high scores on these subjective criteria to the “underrepresented” in order to make up for shortfalls in objective criteria like grades and SATs. Voila! A “highly qualified applicant.” The “personality” excuse gives them plausible deniability and defies replication, even when people start to notice that all the applicants with really great personalities and leadership ability have a distinctly darker skin tone and/or no dong (and aren’t named “Chang”, “Tsai”, et al.).

      This same sort of garbage has been going on in California for a long time. Affirmative action in admissions is technically illegal, but the UC administration and admissions are all social justice cheerleaders, so they have found a host of inventive ways to get to similar results by different means with plausible deniability. You can’t believe some of the crap they have come up with to get the “right” outcomes.

      But it’s not just social justice crusaders in the administration trying to game the admissions system, and it’s not just Harvard. University admissions across America are profoundly broken. Particularly at competitive schools, applicants are doing massive test prep, formulating every breath of their high school “career” to please admissions preferences, reading books on what elite schools look for in applications, hiring consultants … The applicants and their families are trying to game the system as hard as they can to get the tiniest edge, rather than being themselves and attending where they attend. It’s utterly psychotic.

      Calling any of this “meritocracy” is hysterical. We are teaching our young people to be institution manipulators, pathological optimizers, and cheaters, not well educated citizens for the sake of. They are learning to be meretricious, not meritorious. These days, education is just the playing field for a social hierarchy and status battle, nothing more. Is it really any wonder that the minority students who aren’t Asian try to game the system using their race and historical grievances? That’s the only sandbag most of them have to throw on the horse.

      Instead of suing Harvard and trying to suppress the race part of the game, maybe we should begin to think about getting rid of the game and relieving our young people from this rat race. It’s NOT healthy. Set a floor for grades, SATs, etc., and all those qualified get thrown in a lottery. Then you’d get some real diversity without putting students into institutions they aren’t qualified to handle just so the administrators can feel virtuous.

  9. John Craigton says

    @adrian e: indeed, most people in the US believe their country is best in world. I am not surprised, in the US the flag is sacred, at least when I worked there. A huge US flag waved on our university campus. I guess it is a historical remnant of cold war. Repeating a false fact may make it seem true, but it is not. The level of preventable poverty and poor health among poor is bizarre (the result of small government), as is the low performance on international educational assessments.

    • Lert345 says

      It has been my experience that most people think their own country is the best in the world.

    • So do most people in other countries. I am from Honduras and people in one breath complain about how awful it is, then say it’s the best. They move here to the States but still keep Honduran flags. It’s crazy.

  10. Harvard must maintain the illusion that a Harvard education has intrinsic value: it does not; only a Harvard degree has any value. Knowledge is fungible and any motivated student can learn as much if not more by attending one of hundreds of regional private colleges and universities, most would love to have more Asian students.

    • It’s not the intrinsic value of the education so much as the exclusivity and quality control. If you buy a Harvard graduate, you know you’re far more likely to get an A* product because Harvard only use the finest raw material and combine it with advanced manufacturing techniques to be able to output high end product from their assembly line.

      They used to say no-one got fired for buying IBM. No-one gets fired for hiring Harvard graduates. If your potential clients know you exclusively operate Harvard graduates to build your product they’re more likely to spend with you.

      • Oh what a crock. I had a co-worker who paid his way into a Harvard MBA. He came back and didn’t even know the basics of the material that was created by one of his professors! He even touted..oh yes, him…he was one of my professors…yet clueless. Why? Because Haaaavaaaad isn’t going to fail someone paying them insae $$s/year to go there. He was social, he was a minority student with tremendous charisma, and he was this “great Haaavaaaad” MBA. Meanwhile, co-worker B with an MBA from a local place new more about the “Haaaavaaaad” material than this guy.

        • Clearly I should have concluded my comment with /sarc though I must admit I didn’t think it really needed it. YMMV I suppose…

  11. E. Olson says

    How can diversity be defined by anything besides race when virtually everyone who is admitted: 1) comes from upper-middle class or above backgrounds, 2) has extremely high test scores/grades (even the affirmative action students have generally high scores and the highest for their race), 3) has been involved in lots of extra-curricular activities that almost certainly entail the family resources to allow “volunteering” for a good cause instead of using those hours for paid employment during high school, and 4) has the financial and other family support necessary to make the geographic move to an elite school location? Of course the elite schools might try to diversify by other means such as socio-economic status, but replacing trust-funder applicants with too many ghetto kids, fruit-picker kids, or coal miner’s daughters might reduce future endowment funds contributions. They might also try to diversify by means of political/economic viewpoint diversity, but replacing leftist social-warrior applicants with too many Young Republican or Fellowship of Christian Athlete applicants might make the campus too white and/or create too many “unsafe” spaces on campus for the leftist snowflakes.

    It is funny that it takes a Republican administration to push back on this anti-Asian discrimination, even though Asian-Americans tend to vote Democrat by somewhere around 3 to 1 ratios. Perhaps Asian voters should start to consider which party is truly interested in meritocracy and rewarding hard work and lawful behaviors.

  12. So it comes down to this for Harvard: the only diversity worth having is a diversity of skin color and eye shapes. Not socio-economic diversity. Not ideological diversity. Not religious diversity. Not Meyers-Briggs diversity. The only kind of diversity that matters to Harvard is skin color and eye-shape. What a bizarre definition of diversity they have.

  13. Edward says

    Let’s hope that the Asian-Americans win their case against Harvard. If they do, however, it will only be the first battle in a long war: it seems unlikely that race-based preferential treatment (commonly referred to as ‘affirmative action’) will be ended based on the outcome of this case.

    Rather, the covert discrimination against Asians, based mainly on “personality ratings” that are applied by people in the admissions office (and not by interviewers who tend to rate Asian personalities comparably to those of other races), would be halted. This would be a huge victory in itself, but it would leave legacy/athlete preferences untouched as well as affirmative action itself.

    Moreover, what Harvard is doing is now a widespread phenomenon. Gifted programs and elite schools across the country – most publicly in New York – are tinkering with their admissions standards so as to reduce the proportion of Asian-Americans in these programs/schools. If Asian-Americans want to stop this, they will have to increase their political representation, which by and large they don’t have (excepting a few prominent Indian-American politicians).

    Even then, it’s not clear whether the Asian-Americans who do go into politics will actually speak out against this discrimination. A lot of Asian-Americans are currently defending Harvard, which is remarkable. That said, some scientists have spoken out against this, most notably Steve Hsu and Siddhartha Mukherjee.

    • D.B. Cooper says

      @Edward

      We meet again (unless, this is a different Edward, in which case, ignore this sentence and the next). I need to get back to you on that “justification” thread, because of my own experience with an issue you mentioned. Obviously, this is my own personal account of a situation (anecdotal), and therefore, it should be understood as such, i.e., not necessarily an objective claim of the material facts.

      You mentioned, that New York was “tinkering” with their Gifted program “admissions standards so as to reduce the proportion of Asian-Americans in these programs/schools.” I, too, was in a Gifted program in school. To get into the program, you had to take a test – which I later learned was an IQ test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, I believe – by a psychologist working at the school district. Now, I happen to live in the South (I can confirm that almost all the stereotypes about rednecks are true), so there weren’t a lot of Asians, if any, in my program; but there was a rather marked imbalance in phenotypic differences. The lack of Asians was almost certainly due to a systematic sampling bias.

      At any rate, I mention this because I ran into one of my teacher’s from the program not too long ago, and she was telling me about the various changes that had been made, due to these “imbalances.” Aside from what she described as “significant changes” in the curriculum, the school district (in all their reductive wisdom) decided to jettison the old admissions test for a new one that now amounts to something like Color-by-Number. In addition to the coloring book, they also added an “interview assessment” to the admission process. These changes (among others) have worked so well that my former teacher no longer works there, because (in her words) the educational environment is completely different. Score one for the Left. They may be a shifty bunch, but their exacting in their cause.

      • Edward says

        We do indeed meet again!

        Your former teacher sounds like a sensible individual, and reminds me of my own G&T tutor (Gifted and Talented is the preferred term in the UK), who I have no doubt would stop participating in the school’s program if they tried anything like that.

        It’s amazing that some educationalists making these changes in the United States actually admit that standards have dropped and that they’ve had to introduce ability setting into the gifted programs themselves. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/us/education-gifted-students.html

        Admission to my high school’s gifted program was based on a composite score which took into account IQ test data and teacher recommendation.

        If I remember correctly, around 9% of each year group (32/360) was in the program. 100% of the Jews in the year group were in the gifted program, along with 40% of the Asian Indians and 29% of the East Asians. None of the blacks, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis were in the gifted program, but no one seemed to mind.

        One thing that we still have going for us in the UK is that we’ve managed to broadly stay away from preferential treatment/positive discrimination/affirmative action in our educational institutions, particularly when it comes to gifted programs and admission to Oxford and Cambridge (adjusting for the age distributions in each ethnic group, Chinese students are 6.8 times more likely and Asian Indians are 2.6 times more likely to get into Cambridge than Whites, yet Whites are 1.9 times more likely to get in than Pakistanis/Bangladeshis and 1.7 times more likely to get in than Blacks).

        Having said that, there was a recent fracas related to the paucity of black students at Oxbridge, with a few politicians even calling for affirmative action to be imported to Britain. Thankfully, Oxford and Cambridge resolutely declined.

  14. The elephant in the room here is foreign student enrollment, a growing part of the student body at all elite universities – and the majority of whom today are Asian.
    Those enrollment statistics quoted here (of 19% Asian, for instance at Harvard) are only for DOMESTIC applicants. Foreign students are not counted. So it’s an undercount of the number of Asian faces in the classrooms. Harvard would never want to admit this, but that’s part of the reason they want to keep the Asian-American enrollment rate down.

  15. Farris says

    Imagine if all applicants to college were assigned a number and applied only under that number. The number along with its corresponding data would be fed into a computer. The computer would read the data based upon a set of neutral algorithms and select the most suitable numbers ie. students. Student or numbers who were rejected would still have opportunities at less prestigious schools. If Universities chose applicants in this completely color blind gender neutral manner, it could still violate the legal standard of “disparate impact”. Meaning if this completely neutral merit based selection method impacted a suspect minority class or gender disproportionately, it would be considered discriminatory. If true neutrality is considered out of bounds, then fairness suffers and what is actually occurring is jockeying for position of favored among different groups or tribes. Harvard and others are actually trying to stay out of court by favoring suspects groups while simultaneously hiding the fact they are doing so.

    • Simon Corelli says

      I had this very same thought. But you’re right, it won’t help them meet the racial quotas that are required for the government to keep providing them funds. Meritocracy is a lovely word, but only those with merit really want it. The rest have nothing to gain, and everything to lose if affirmative action goes away.

  16. The author blames Asians themselves for “not being loud” in explaining why this egregious racism has been allowed to continue. No. I must disagree. Not simply because it’s blaming the victim, but because pointing fingers back at Asians for being too polite and stoic allows us to entirely miss the bigger picture–that the Movers & Shakers are both racist and are using “diversity” to stay in power and/or destroy Western culture. That they view themselves as paragons of virtue is irrelevant.

    As a Jew, I’m generationally used to quotas & discrimination. The entire reason the ‘holistic” student and the “leadership” value began was because of the “Jewish problem” at Yale. Ivies felt there were too many Jews getting in via merit, and it would ruin the Wasp (white anglo-saxist protestant) predominance. They therefore invented ‘leadership’ and ‘athleticism’ as parameters for acceptance in the same way Harvard invents ‘personality’ in theirs–in both cases it deliberately disadvantages Jews or Asians while appearing to not do so.

    This isn’t happening because Asians are too polite. It’s happening because the upper class social manipulators want to artificially equalize outcome, not opportunity. Since, left to themselves, African Americans, Latinos, and other underrepresented minorities, simply do not get into colleges by merit statistically (I am NOT saying there aren’t individual brilliant URM kids by any means!) and they believe that everyone is equal and the same, then they conclude the only reason they aren’t is because of oppression form the top down, and the only way to solve that is fixing it from the top down. They don’t care about the minority groups per se; they care about their own narrative, that outcome must be equalized, so they focus only on those groups that don’t get in via their merit at the levels they ideally want. What this means defacto is a) upper class and wealthy Africans, Middle Easterners, and Latinos get in disproportionately to fulfill the ‘quota’ and b) given that there is a fixed class size, Asians and lower income whites make room for them. Given that Asians are underrepresented in another privileged quota, athletes, and are further underrepresented in the wealthy, they are very disproportionally affected by the college admission system.

    This is deliberate and heavily ingrained. The repulsive thing about it is that the Movers & Shakers feel so pious about it when in fact they are doing this to *other peoples’ children* never their own. Wealthy whites & the highly connected are just fine. Bill Gates’ kids will get in no matter what. A Saudi prince will get in just fine. Obama’s niece will get in just fine. And so on. And again, when they say ‘diversity’ they don’t really mean it. They mean just *some* minorities, the ones they feel superior to , the ones who wouldn’t compete against their kids via merit, or else symbols of them and non-Europeans, e.g. a wealthy African whose ancestors never experienced Jim crow or slavery.

    I’m glad this is being spoken about more, and it should be, but the whole ‘diversity’ push is what is to blame, and the ones in power are frantically doing everything they can to ensure this ‘narrative’ stays in power, Asians and middle/lower classes be damned.

  17. D.B. Cooper says

    I thought this was an informative exercise. Consider this statement Harvard released, following the Justice Department’s decision to launch its own civil rights investigation into the school’s admission policies. It reads in part:

    Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years.” (Washington Post – ‘Justice Department criticizes Harvard admissions in case alleging bias against Asian Americans’)

    You could turn an ankle trying to get through that twisted thicket of weasel speak. So, let me help you understand what Harvard is actually saying, but is trying not to:

    “Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admission, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years.

    The framing of this debate has been all wrong. I keep hearing the media and various others with latent frontal lobe development claim that Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group on the basis of race. I find this shocking, since discrimination – or drawing distinction, if you like – is, precisely, what affirmative action policies are designed to do.

    So, please, let’s stop insulting one another here with obfuscating claims about affirmative action not being discriminatory in scope. Harvard isn’t “allegedly” discriminating against certain groups of people – Asians in this instance – that are in fact discriminating against certain groups of people.

    Using race as one factor among many or as the only factor, is a matter of degrees, not a fact about its occurrence. If you use race as a determining factor during the selection process, you are, by definition, discriminating on the basis of race. Discreetly vomiting the specious claim that your intent is to manifest a sufficient degree of phenotypic diversity is largely besides the fact. THIS IS CALLED A REASON. It bears repeating – sadly, I might add – that the REASON why you do something does not (nor can it) in any way change the fact that you are indeed doing that thing. Simply b/c you can regurgitate a reason (or justification) for why you’re discriminating does not at all change the fact that you are indeed discriminating.

    So, let’s be clear about this: The fact that Harvard uses race in its admissions calculus as a means to redress the echoes of some historical grievance or to materialize the essentialist notions of an optically pleasing student body (read diversity) does not change whether or not they are using race as a determining factor in their admission policies. They are, as I said, by definition, discriminating on the basis of race, full stop. To claim otherwise is not only an affront to common decency, it violates the constraints of basic reasoning. Just imagine someone robbing you for your wallet in broad daylight and then the person having the audacity to claim he didn’t rob you on the basis of the fact you grew up in a middle-class (SES) family, while he grew up in a lower-class (SES) family. Affirmative action at its base, is an ideology grounded in and defended by the good intentions of collective guilt.

  18. The level of outrage in this piece comes as a surprise to this reader. Any special allowances for low-performing groups will necessarily come at the expense of medium-performing individuals from high-performing groups; that’s how affirmative action has always worked in practice. It’s not possible to give seats to blacks and latinos without taking them away from asians and whites. We white people have adjusted to this and it just feels normal. This piece is shocked, SHOCKED that asians are being discriminated against!

    • What jumped out to me is these lines from the article:
      “The betrayal doesn’t come simply from the discrimination itself but rather the messaging Harvard has sent out their entire waking adult lives: the idea that Harvard is committed to facilitate the entry of a “diverse” class of students—which they [Asians] didn’t realize meant exclusivity rather than inclusivity in their case. Harvard’s lofty goals were dishonest; their claims to diversity were hypocritical. It is not even that these Asian-Americans are only fighting for more representation in elite colleges, though this is the catalyzing incident. They want to live in a fair society. One that accurately represents the promise of the American Dream—that if you work hard, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your ambitions.”

      If an institution has a goal of racial “inclusivity”, then logically that implies some measure of “exclusivity” of other races. In other words, if you make the bar lower for some races, then you must raise the bar for other races. That’s why affirmative action is controversial.

      As described in my post below, the student body is currently about:
      — 25% Jewish
      — 21% White (non-Jewish)
      — 19% Asian
      — 10% International
      — 10% Mixed Race
      — 9% Hispanic
      — 6% Black

      The only way I can make sense of this article is if the author considers the goal of “diversity” to mean less non-Jewish white people. I suppose you could reduce the number of Jews, but then people will say that’s antisemitic. All the other groups are at lower numbers than Asians. How will replacing members of any other group with Asians make the student body more diverse?

      According to this New York Times article, Harvard is currently 24% Asian. I think that the reason that that the NYT article got a higher number than 19%, is because the NYT article does not have a category for international students. In other words, about half of the international students are Asian.
      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/24/us/affirmative-action.html

      By the way, Asian americans are among the many groups that receive special benefits from MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency): “African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Spanish-speaking Americans, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Hasidic Jews, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Asian Indians”.
      https://www.nationalreview.com/2012/06/are-arab-americans-disadvantaged-alexander-kazam/

    • Caligula says

      This is true at any university, but, it’s less true at Harvard than elsewhere.

      It’s less true because Harvard is almost always the first selection of all applicants. And therefore Harvard can apply a heavy affirmative action thumb to the admissions scales and, because its admissions are so insanely selective, still select few if any applicants who are less than outstanding.

      One does not have to go far down the pecking order for this to be less true, however, especially as Harvard has already skimmed off many the best available beneficiaries of affirmative action.

      The point is, although Harvard is the defendant here, it’s not just about Harvard.

  19. If race-based discrimination were ended in college admissions, we would quickly see a student body that was 60% east asian, 30% jewish, and 10% WASP. This would be terrible for Harvard’s brand, and strongly discontinuous with their historical identity, so of course they will fight against it tooth and nail.

    I for one feel like they do a pretty decent job of curating the student body and balancing these various interests, while letting Harvard be Harvard (instead of Stuyvesant High).

    • As Joe says, Harvard may be concerned about the demographics becoming “60% East Asian, 30% Jewish, and 10% WASP”. I did some research and found that they currently already have 25% of the population as Jewish.
      https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/The-most-heavily-Jewish-US-college-and-other-facts-about-Jews-at-American-colleges-437701
      “… Harvard University, which is 25 percent Jewish (1,675 out of 6,694 undergrads).”

      According to this Quillette article above, Asians are 19%.

      Also, according to wikipedia, here are the stats for undergraduate students compard to US census:
      Undergrad US census
      Asian/Pacific Islander 17% 5%
      Black/non-Hispanic 6% 12%
      Hispanics of any race 9% 16%
      White/non-Hispanic 46% 64%
      Mixed race/other 10% 9%
      International students 11% N/A

      With 10% mixed race and 11% international students, there’s probably many more of Asian heritage as well. If 46% are white and 25% are Jewish, then this means the WASP is currently only 21%.

      So, if the Asian-American group (i.e., Students for Fair Admission) win this lawsuit and the school becomes 60% asian, will Asians want to come to Harvard anymore? Of course, some would still want to, but maybe, it would be less desirable.

      Here’s what Steve Sailor wrote earlier this year:
      http://www.unz.com/isteve/harvards-brand-management/
      “It’s pretty obvious that Harvard in 2018 tends to view Asian applicants the way it viewed Jewish applicants in 1918: as tending to be smart and hardworking, but in such overabundance that they threaten to inundate the place and detract from the immense glamor of the Harvard brand. This is widely denounced today as the Third Worst Thing in History, after Hitler and the 1924 Immigration Act.
      But Harvard’s worry a century ago was that it would get so popular with Jews that Jews wouldn’t go there anymore.
      In 1922, Harvard made some changes to its admissions procedures that had disparate impact on Jewish immigrants. It’s likely that contemporary Harvard, with 2 of its last 3 presidents being Jewish, feels much the same about Asians and would prefer to not turn into UC Irvine. And, I bet if you got a lot of Asian Harvard students and grads to tell you the truth, they would probably agree that they are glad Harvard isn’t Stuyvesant HS.
      My heretical opinion is that the people running Harvard for the last century have done a pretty good job of self-interested brand management in maintaining the value of the Harvard brand.”

      But I have a naive question: why would it affect the “immense glamor of the Harvard brand”?

      • There are three big questions:

        1) Could Harvard increase the Asian % (and absolute #s) while keeping around enough rich people and token minorities to fulfill its objectives?

        2) Is it less about having fewer if other groups and more fear of Asian independence?

        3) Why should US society (and thus courts) give a damn about Harvard’s objectives?

        It seems obvious to me that as Asian % has gone up and overall population numbers have increased that it is very difficult for Harvard to maintain its 20% Asian quota and not increase its class sizes. For a long time they could get away with this, but there is a lot of pent up pressure being created. Could Harvard not increase Asian % from 20% to 30%, increase its class size a bit, and take the pressure off. It would only require a couple of % each from the relevant groups, and could be absorbed if it was spread around equally. It’s not 40%, but it’s something to take the edge off. Fighting over the 30% quota can be next generations battle.

        The second question is if it’s just about fear. Does something happen past 20% where Asians stop being the servant class that does your STEM work for you and start being a ruling class that wants ownership. If its this then grasping their “Place in the Sun” will require more assertiveness by Asians. After all its not just #s, its how those numbers reflect a fundamental re-negotiation of power relations between Asians and the ruling class.

        Lastly, given that what’s good for Harvard isn’t good for middle America, I see no damn reason to defend Harvard. Asians don’t strike me as having a ton of affinity for middle America, but at least they don’t have immense loathing for middle America like elite whites have. Perhaps a more STEM oriented Asian elite might clip progressives wings a little. Especially if progressives won’t allow Asians a proper place and they need us to force their way in.

  20. What is Harvard? What is it that it is offering?
    Not education, obviously.

    A Harvard doctor doesn’t heal any better or quicker than one from Cornell or UCLA, a Harvard lawyer won’t necessarily win more cases.

    To answer the question, imagine if we created a thousand Harvards across the country.

    Well, we can’t. Because what Harvard offers is an exclusive VIP access to the global elite. What it offers is the networking access and brand affiliation that has always been the hallmark of the elite.

    The whole point of being elite is that it is NOT a meritocracy. If it were, your results would speak for themselves, and no one would care what diploma hangs on your wall, or what your daddy’s name is.

  21. ga gamba says

    Some schools such as the University of Chicago have doubled down on DIE by removing SAT/ACT scores to be used for applicants’ admissions. These tests are the only standardised measure common to all students, thus these are used to buttress Asians’ legitimate claims of discrimination.

    What this also does is increase the perception by good students with lower test results that they may have a better shot than when standardised tests mattered. This increases both applications and rejections thus making the school even more selective. Being more selective increases the schools’ rankings and their desirability.

  22. steph says

    Maybe because I’m European I can’t really understand why going into the best college is so important in America. Is it only for networking? Because it can’t be for the quality of the education provided that obviously isn’t much worst at for example the University of Notre Dame or Washington University in St. Louis than at Harvard.

    • Caligula says

      The usual theory is that it is signalling.

      The top-tier schools are so insanely difficult to get into (even if you are a favored race or ethnicity) that putting one of these schools on your resume signals, “I was smart enough to get into Harvard!” There’s more to a good employee than intelligence, but, in some fields a high general intelligence (or at least the perception of same) remains very highly valued.

      This might be less important if employers had fewer restrictions in selecting candidates, but, many tests that employers might use have a disparate impact (i.e., in the aggregate some races and ethnicities score higher than others). Employers may lawfully use these selection criteria anyway if they can prove using them is a “business necessity,” yet businesses naturally prefer not to put themselves at risk, especially as the cost of even successful litigation if sued by government agencies (with near-limitless legal budgets) can be ruinous.

  23. Perhaps it’s time for such high achievers to not fall prey to “brand names” and “historic authority and elitism” and start going elsewhere, where the best will then create a new better/best school. Competition, not crying unfair, is the solution.

  24. “To these Asian parents, deeply committed to ideas of competition and meritocracy, Harvard represents their ultimate prize.”

    If they really are committed to these ideas they need to wake up and stop voting democrat at such a ridiculous rate.

  25. The saddest part of this entire episode is how these schools refuse to disclose how Asians could improves themselves to be more successful than they already are. If Harvard magically knows how Asians can make themselves better citizens in their view, why not tell them?

    If Harvard revealed Circus Clowns were a highly desirable characteristic then we would have lots of Asian circus clowns. Maybe the world needs more good circus clowns. Instead we have Harvard telling Asians they must change the one thing they cannot, their race.

    The last thing Harvard et. al. wants to do is open up their admission criteria, because Asians will mold themselves to fit that model, and everyone knows it. Why is this considered a bad thing?

  26. The elephant in the room is that the US lags behind academically because of African-Americans and Hispanics not scoring as well as whites and Asians. We also have a large number of ESL students.

  27. Skallagrimsen says

    What we need is to undermine Harvard’s undeserved reputation as the world’s intellectual epicenter.

  28. Recently, many of comments sections on Quilette seem to descend into vitriol without discussion. This makes me sad because I feel like this used to be a website where a lot of productive debate took place, it’s now just become another echo chamber (admittedly a better echo chamber than many others).

    I don’t know where I fall on this debate: there is more to consider here than just admissions, because education is part of a feedback loop which determines class and wealth, there’s an open question about whether we should adjust these loops to remedy historical inequity, or we should just let them sort themselves out over time. Regardless, if you’re going to take a stance in favour of meritocracy then you ought to look at educational outcomes. A case in point:

    I once asked a professor at a Cambridge college (which I think is analogous to Harvard, note all Cambridge colleges have different admissions procedures) whether they looked at nationality. He replied that they did, they separated students into 4 main groups:

    British students were solid candidates (reliable B)
    European students were excellent candidates (reliable A)
    Asian students who studied in Asia were hit or miss (A or C)
    Asian students who had been sent to the UK to study were often poor candidates (C)

    This is after controlling for all observable factors in the application process, which included an interview. Obviously race is not the same as nationality, but there might still be different observable characteristics if there are cultural differences. I suspect that the classic ‘tiger mums’ who sent their children to British boarding schools were very adept at gaming the system and creating wonderful applications – this does not mean that their children would are better students. The same phenomenon may apply in the US, although I understand that this argument is not about that.

    Similarly, state school students did better than private school students in the final two years of the engineering course (and worse in the first two), all else being equal. This is likely because the private school students had had a better education, but they weren’t actually smarter than the state school kids and over time, once education was shared by the two groups, the best kids rose to the top. So would giving preference to state school students be anti-meritocratic?

    I’m not sure pure meritocracy is the right option, but if it is, then simply looking at gameable admissions criteria is not the best way to evaluate ability.

    • Simon Corelli says

      This. You just coined my new favorite phrase. “Revenge racism.”

  29. Harvard is admitting to rejecting high- (and out-)performing Asian students on grounds of “personality” scores. This would actually mean that Harvard considers Asians lacking in relevant personality traits compared to other races. What is this other than racism?

    Interestingly enough, no JSWs care about this institutionalised and systemic racism as it does not concern a race they consider worth fighting for. What is this other than racism?

  30. TofeldianSage says

    It was sad and sort of pathetic to read about the young man pumping up his self image and self worth only to discover that the game had moved on, and he really wasn’t worth anything under the new rules.
    Asian Americans have cause for concern in two areas: 1. The universities have too many students in total, and 2. There is a large offshore Asian contingent.
    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that with a glut of students, and hard-Left administrators, the admissions policy would drift away from merit. Look what happens in government when you have a hard-Left civil service coupled with abundant funding: the activities get progressively more insane.
    As regards the offshore Asian students, they have been coming to NA for the past 50 years, but never seem able to establish their own top-tier universities back home. Why is that? They seem more adept at using a facility that someone else built than building one of their own. They do much the same with intellectual property. In their eyes the local-born Asians aren’t Asian at all, just another back to climb over. In the game of avarice and ambition the Asian American is far too mellow, too American, to compete with their offshore cousin.
    So, sorry my Asian American friends, you are beginning to suffer the effects of the same new strain of institutional hatred that white men have been suffering lo these last 20 years. The society you helped build is in the hands of people who hate you. See you in the trenches, mate.

  31. Optional says

    Harvard hasn’t been #1 for well over a decade.
    Its endowment per student the relevant number ) is probably #3.
    And its other rankings are roughly equal. It has been coasting on its reputation and its graduate schools for decades now.
    With luck its overtly racist behavior (Asian admission discrimination, separate black graduations) will accelerate its long overdue demise.

  32. Debbie says

    “This, then, is Harvard’s justification for applying race-based standards unevenly across various ethnic groups. Diversity.”

    Uhhh . . . because they read Hopwood? Maybe?

  33. NancyP says

    Could it be that some of these applicants are over-coached by their college admissions advisers? That the prospective students mold themselves to please parents and to be “ideal” candidates, so that the interviewer finds it difficult to tell if the candidate is self-motivated or merely compliant? Nothing is more annoying to me than interviewing a (medical residency) candidate who recites a canned spiel about “This Residency is Wonderful” and tries to flatter the interviewer, instead of expressing their own interests and asking questions that show that they are trying to find the residency that best suits them.

    I certainly understand the ire over admitting boring and non-academically inclined scions of 3rd generation rich alumni, non-alumni big donors, and U.S. Senators, in preference to more talented and interesting students, but we all know that is going to continue.

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