On the surface, the case should have been a slam dunk in a society where either fairness or merit were a consideration. Asian students applying to Harvard have an average SAT Score significantly higher than any other group of students, yet they have the lowest admission rate.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
Consider Harvard’s “holistic” admissions review. Applicants are rated on a scale of one to six on academics, extracurricular activities, athletics and highly subjective “personal” criteria. Admissions officers also assign applicants an overall score.
According to Students for Fair Admissions, Asian-Americans boasted higher extracurricular and academic ratings than all other racial groups. They also received higher scores from alumni interviewers. But they were rated disproportionately lower on personal criteria. Only about one in five Asian-Americans in the top 10% of academic performers received a “2” personal rating. Yet blacks and Hispanics with much lower grades and SAT scores received high personal ratings.
Asian-Americans also disproportionately received lower composite scores. Blacks in the top 10% of academic performers were three times more likely than Asian-Americans to receive a “2” overall rating (“1” is the best). A sample of applicant summary sheets disproportionately refer to Asian-Americans as “busy and bright” and “standard strong”—labels that liberals might call micro-aggressions.
So, while Asian applicants were stronger across the board, Harvard came up with a slick way of blackballing them. They created a Potemkin system of holistic admissions and weighted heavily the one part that Harvard could influence, a so-called “personal rating.”
The case made its way into court and yesterday an Obama judge, Allison Burroughs, ruled in favor of Harvard.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs emphasized the university has a compelling interest in cultivating a diverse campus community, and that Harvard’s practices, though imperfect, are narrowly tailored to achieve its desired end.
“The process would likely benefit from conducting implicit bias trainings for admissions officers, maintaining clear guidelines on the use of race in the admissions process, which were developed during this litigation, and monitoring and making admissions officers aware of any significant race-related statistical disparities in the rating process,” the decision reads. “That being said, the court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster, solely because it could do better.”
This is an interesting case because unlike most affirmative action cases which involve white students vs. minority quotas, this one showcases what happens when the interests of minority groups collide. In this case, the disparity between the standard required for Asian students to matriculate actually places them at a disadvantage even compared to white applicants. The Supreme Court has declared that “disparate impact,” that is, neutral programs and processes which overwhelmingly disadvantage minorities are suspect. Here we have at classic case and the judge basically says, “f*** y’all, you aren’t really members of a minority group.”
This case is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court. The weak sister of affirmative action cases, Anthony Kennedy, is gone and, statistically speaking, even Iron Woman RBB will not be there. So the line up is looking pretty grim for the forces of racial balkanization.