Last week, the U.S. Justice Department gave a big boost to a controversial lawsuit that claims Harvard discriminates against Asian-Americans.
CGTN’s Karina Huber reports.
“The record evidence demonstrates that Harvard’s race-based admissions process significantly disadvantages Asian-American applicants,” said department officials through a so-called “statement of interest.” At the heart of the case is the accusation that in admissions Harvard holds Asian-Americans to a higher standard and it allegedly uses personal ratings to artificially cap the number of Asian-Americans.
Swan Lee, Co-Founder of the Asian American Coalition for Education, which supports the lawsuit filed a similar complaint with the Department of Justice that has triggered an investigation into Harvard’s admissions practices. “Even when Asian-American applicants have similar qualifications as students of other racial groups, Harvard would mark them down subjectively in personality ratings claiming they are not likable or they’re not having good character and stuff like that,” said Lee.
Harvard denies it discriminates against Asian-Americans, or any other group. Among minorities, Asian-Americans, are the most represented at Harvard accounting for 22 percent of its class of 2021. That is far above the percentage of Asians in the U.S. population. Harvard strongly defends what it calls a holistic approach to admissions. It looks at race and many other factors beyond academics and extracurricular achievements in its goal to create a diverse student body.
Numerous studies have shown that all students benefit from different viewpoints that a diverse class provides. Some Asian-American groups, and more than 500 academics, have come out in support of Harvard’s admissions practices. “Harvard in particular has a mission to produce citizens – citizen leaders as they call them who are going to lead communities of all backgrounds, races, colors. And so part of what they need to do is admit students from these different backgrounds so that they can go and lead those communities and help solve all the problems of this world,” said Jeanne Park, President of the Harvard Asian-American Alumni Alliance.
The lawsuit against Harvard was filed by an anti-affirmative action group called Students for Fair Admissions that previously filed suits in support of white students against other U.S. colleges. To date it has failed to win any of its claims. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled numerous times that the consideration of race in admissions is legal, but racial quotas are unconstitutional.
The case is expected to go to trial in October and most believe it is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. The court – and Harvard – have defended affirmative action based on race but chat could change if U.S. President Donald’s Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is confirmed by the Senate.
Under President George W. Bush, Kavanaugh organized White House opposition to affirmative action at the University of Michigan. So the case is being watched closely. The stakes are high and it could have wide implications for admissions for colleges around the United States.
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