Wednesday, September 05, 2018 by Isabelle Z.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has formally expressed its support for Asian American students who filed a landmark affirmative action suit alleging that Harvard University admissions discriminated against them.
A group known as Students for Fair Admissions filed a suit against Harvard over a “personal rating” admissions affirmative action policy that it says discriminates against Asian applicants. The suit said that Asian Americans were consistently given lower ratings in subjective categories such as personality and courage – something that hurt their chances of getting accepted to the school and that they believe is intentional.
The Justice Department agreed, saying in documents that it filed supporting the group’s federal lawsuit that the university’s admission process “may be infected with racial bias” and that Harvard has not been able to prove its consideration of race in admissions assessments is in accordance with what the law requires. The DOJ is also launching an investigation of its own into the school’s discriminatory admissions policies.
In addition, the DOJ statement of interest claims that Harvard strives to achieve the same racial demographics in every entering class despite a Supreme Court ban on racial balancing and quotas. This is supported by the fact that Asian Americans accounted for 18 percent of the admitted classes in both 2014 and 2015 and 20 percent of the 2016 and 2017 classes.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Harvard, despite being a private university, is the recipient of taxpayer funds and federal grants and therefore has an obligation to follow legal admissions requirements and avoid racial discrimination. The case will be tried in Boston next month, but it is believed that it will ultimately make its way to the Supreme Court.
A statement that the university released in response to the Department of Justice’s letter seemed to contradict itself. It states: “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 SCOTUS has upheld for more than 40 years.”
So which is it: Do they not discriminate against applicants from any group, or are they trying to protect what they say is their right to consider race as an admissions factor? Why does race need to be considered if it’s supposedly not influencing their decision anyway? A study that was recently published by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicates that there is indeed some discrimination going on. The study showed that students of Asian descent are dramatically underrepresented at the prestigious university.
At the California Institute of Technology, for example, 43 percent of the student body is Asian, while Harvard is made up of only 17 percent Asian students. The group’s representatives feel the Asian students are passed over to make room for Hispanics, blacks and even whites who are not as qualified academically because of its affirmative action policies.
Moreover, the group says that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which also has a significantly lower Asian representation in the student body, has a similar policy in place. The study says that Harvard and MIT appear to have a type of “ceiling” on the number of Asian American students they are willing to admit.
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