Are Harvard and Princeton Discriminating Against Asian-American Applicants?

harvard & princeton discrimination

A recent article by Inside Higher Ed reported that: “The rejected applicant who asked the U.S. Education Department to investigate his treatment by Harvard and Princeton Universities has withdrawn his complaints against the two institutions. As a result, the department’s Office for Civil Rights has notified the universities that the complaint is no longer under investigation. A broader review of Princeton’s treatment of Asians in the admissions process — already going on for several years — continues.”

News of the applicant’s withdrawal has brought the debate over whether or not Asian-American applicants are discriminated against during the admission process at most Ivy League schools back into the spotlight. And new, this debate is not. For years, reports and statistics attempting to prove or disprove such allegations have surfaced with none releasing critical data that can determine for certain that discrimination, in the legal sense, is indeed occurring.

Some studies have shown that Asian-Americans are being required to score higher than whites on entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, and are highly underrepresented among recruited athletes.”Thomas J. Espenshade, a sociologist at Princeton and the author of “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life,” showed in his research that Asian-Americans needed SAT scores that were about 140 points higher than white students, all other quantifiable variables being equal, to get into elite schools (The Choice, a NY Times blog).

Many Ivy League schools have also been known to give preference to children of alumni (another disproportionately non-Asian group) and overlook Asian-Americans in the “underrepresented racial minorities and underrepresented geographical areas” categories (Slate).

Asian-Americans have the highest high school graduation rate out of all racial groups represented in the U.S., and are applying mainly to math, science and engineering programs at many of the elite universities. Howard Greene, a school adviser who wrote several “Greene’s Guides” with his son Matthew, believes that “a traditional emphasis on ‘Asian-American families directing their children to math, science, engineering and maybe business’ could work against their admissions chances because ‘there’s not a broad representation of students applying for humanities, English, the arts.'” Green goes on to say that “to find discrimination is to find kids who have relatively the same numbers assigned to them for academic and nonacademic things, and then determine if there is a pattern of rejection based on race” (The Choice, a NY Times blog).

With the OCR’s investigation put to rest, it may be quite some time before any kind of comprehensive data will be compiled on the issue. For now, the question of whether these accepted legal preferences have, in fact, crossed over into de facto quotas that ultimately limit Asian enrollments remains, and the answer appears to be nowhere in sight.

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The Culture-ist