Harvard University and Affirmative Action

FILE-- In this March 7, 2017 file photograph, rowers pass the campus of Harvard University as they paddle down the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass. Harvard and the group Students for Fair Admissions will file dueling analyses of the Ivy League school's admissions data in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian-American applicants. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

Every time that white writers mention that Affirmative Action is just reverse discrimination, the left rise up to claim that no, it isn’t, and is needed to ‘correct’ for past discrimination on the part of whites against (primarily) blacks in our society. The Washington Post claimed that the belief “that whites are losing out (to minorities) in today’s society” was “a central concern for voters who fueled President Trump’s victory.”


From The Wall Street Journal:

Court Filings Detail Role of Race in Harvard Undergraduate Admissions

Nonprofit says the Ivy League school penalizes Asian-Americans by giving them lower ratings on personal traits during admissions process

By Nicole Hong and Melissa Korn | Updated June 15, 2018 4:22 p.m. ET

Harvard University and the organization accusing it of discriminating against Asian-American applicants each say race plays a role in the school’s admissions decisions, but sharply disagree about whether that constitutes evidence of illegal bias, according to court documents filed on Friday.

The filings are part of a lawsuit in Boston federal court brought against the Ivy League school in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit whose members include Asian-Americans who were denied admission to Harvard. The motions are effectively a preview for the trial in the case, which begins in October.

The lawsuit claims Harvard’s admissions process is unconstitutional and illegal under federal civil rights law because it intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants and holds them to a higher standard. The plaintiffs have said their goal is to reach the Supreme Court.

The filings, which contain hundreds of pages and rely on data for individual applicants to the classes that entered Harvard between 2010 and 2015, give the public the most detailed look ever at Harvard’s method for selecting its incoming undergraduate class.

Each Harvard applicant is given four component ratings—academic, extracurricular, athletic and “personal”—and an overall score that is assigned by taking all factors into account. Within each category, applicants are scored on a scale from 1 to 6, with 1 being the best. Admissions decisions are made by a 40-person committee vote.

The plaintiffs found in their analysis that Asian-American applicants have higher academic and extracurricular scores than any other racial group, as well as the highest overall rating from alumni interviewers. However, Harvard’s admissions officers assign Asian-Americans the lowest score of any racial group on the personal rating, which includes a subjective assessment of character traits such as whether the student has a “positive personality,” the plaintiffs said.

“Asian-Americans are described as smart and hardworking yet uninteresting and indistinguishable from other Asian-American applicants,” the plaintiffs said, after reviewing a sample of documents provided by Harvard with admissions officers’ comments on applicants.


There’s more at the link.

This is not the first time Harvard has been accused of such discrimination, and the college had an actual ‘Jewish quota’ in the 1920s, because too many Jews were being admitted. Of course, that wasn’t illegal a hundred years ago.

We’ve reached out to Harvard for any comment about these purportedly discriminatory policies. Here’s the university’s statement about the allegations that it currently discriminates against Asian-American applicants:

In his seminal opinion in Regents of University of California v. Bakke, Justice Powell specially cited to the Harvard College admissions plan in describing a legally sound approach to admissions. Then and now, the College considers each applicant though an individualized, holistic review having the goal of creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide-range of differences: background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations. The University’s admissions processes remain fully compliant with all legal requirements and are essential to the pedagogical objectives that underlie Harvard’s educational mission.

In the twenties, Harvard was worried that increasing Jewish enrollment would depress the white Protestant elite portion of the student body, Harvard’s traditional core constituency. Nearly a century later, during a supposedly more enlightened time, Harvard is at it again: the ‘wrong’ top students are applying, and that’s just not good.


This is the kind of mischief that Affirmative Action has wrought. First we had institutions discriminating against white applicants, because, of course, white Americans were the beneficiaries of racist policies in the past. That the applicants were not the ones who engaged in such stuff in the past — they were too young — didn’t seem to matter. Apparently this new form of ‘corruption of blood’ was perfectly fine, thank you very much.

But Asian-Americans have hardly been the beneficiaries of slavery, or Jim Crow, or segregation in American history. Americans of Japanese ancestry were interned during World War II, for fear they were somehow going to aid in the Japanese invasion of our west coast. Many Asian-Americans here today are the refugees and descendants of refugees from the various wars in southeast Asia.¹ They came here with little more than the shirts on their backs. How, I have to ask, does Harvard justify discriminating against them?

The Journal described what has happened: while alumni interviews tended to give Asian-American applicants the highest aggregate scores, Harvard’s admissions officers “assign Asian-Americans the lowest score of any racial group on the personal rating.”  One could easily see if Asian applicants received only the second highest scores that it might simply be an inadvertent disparity. But when alumni interviewers give Asians the highest scores, and the university’s employees give them the lowest, it becomes difficult to believe anything other than someone in the administration has ordered lower scores.


We have noted, many times, the Supreme Court case of Grutter v Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), in which the Supreme Court approved the Affirmative Action program of the University of Michigan’s law school. The Court agreed that the law school’s admissions policies, which used race as one of many factors in considering acceptance.  There was, however, a companion case, Gratz v Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003), in which the undergraduate admissions policies of the University of Michigan were found unconstitutional, because they used “‘predetermined point allocations’ that awarded 20 points towards admission to underrepresented minorities² ‘ensures that the diversity contributions of applicants cannot be individually assessed’.”

It appears, at least to me, that the disparity between alumni interviewers and university admissions officials can only be a conscious attempt to evade the requirements of Gratz, and fool everyone into thinking that Harvard is following the Grutter restrictions.

If racial discrimination in admissions and hiring decisions is wrong when such favors white applicants over minorities, then it is also wrong when it favors any particular racial or ethnic group over any other group. In the case of Harvard, there isn’t even the fig leaf coverage that discriminated-against Asians are part of a previously favored group. If “(t)he stated justification for affirmative action by its proponents is that it helps to compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture, and to address existing discrimination,“³ then Harvard’s discrimination against Asian applicants fails because Asian-Americans were certainly not part of “the ruling class of (the) culture” nor does it somehow redress existing discrimination.


We have had Affirmative Action programs in place in this country for over six decades now, and never yet have we managed to ‘correct’ past discrimination by using present discrimination. We have never somehow gotten it right, because doing something wrong never gets things right. The only way to end racial discrimination is to end racial discrimination, and that means that Affirmative Action has to be ended.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
¹ – I have personally known, and worked with, several men whose families fled from Vietnam and Cambodia.
² – A perfect SAT score was worth only 12 points.
³ – “Affirmative Action”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1 April 2009.


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