Department of Justice supports Asian-American claim on Harvard admissions

The U.S. Department of Justice has supported (Chronicle of Higher Education) a legal challenge to Harvard, in a lawsuit claiming the Ivy Leage university uses racial discrimination in its admissions process. A group called Students for Fair Admissions filed the suit, which is scheduled to go to trial at the Supreme Court in October.

Complainants say the record demonstrates that Harvard’s race-based admissions process significantly disadvantages Asian-American applicants compared to applicants of other racial groups — including both white applicants and applicants from other racial minority groups.

Students for Fair Admissions has also filed (The News & Observer) a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Many Asian groups have maintained that elite institutions like Harvard have set standards of admissions higher for Asians than for students of other groups.

At issue is the “personality” rating. Despite higher high school GPAs, standardized test scores and more extra- curricular activities than other groups, Asians are more often rated less favorably in Harvard’s assessment of personality. They are rated less “likable”, “kind”, and “courageous” (as reported in the New York Times) in their application.

However when personality is assessed in face-to-face interviews, that lower rating disappears and they are rated similarly to whites (see New York Times article above).

Harvard denied (Boston Globe) the accusations that it discriminates against Asian applicants.

A ruling in the case could have implications for the status of affirmative action across the country.






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