The United States Department of Justice recently announced that it would be looking into accusations against Harvard University and other such Ivy League schools of racial discrimination against Asian-Americans in college applications.
These accusations have it that universities are discriminating against Asian-Americans because of their over-achieving tendencies compared to applicants of different races and ethnicities. In other words, because Asian-Americans generally do better academically than other races and make up a large portion of qualified applicants, these schools discriminate against them in an effort to give students of other backgrounds a chance.
Obviously, if true, these accusations would hold serious implications – nobody, not even for the purpose of diversity, should ever be discriminated against on basis of race. Which of course begs the question: are top universities such as Harvard actually discriminating against Asian-American applicants?
The first step in looking at this issue to look at is how well these Asian-American applicants are doing in relation to other groups of students. According to the Harvard Crimson, the average SAT score for a Harvard freshman in 2017 was 2237. For Asian Americans, the average SAT score was 2299 – a 52 point difference from the total mean. In contrast, white applicants scored an average of 2233 – or right around the total mean. Black applicants scored the lowest – 2107, or 126 points below the average.
So what does this mean? On first glance, it appears that these accusations are true – Asian-Americans, as a whole, seem to be held to higher standards than their counterparts of other backgrounds. Of course, the data could have other explanations – it might be that that Asian-Americans simply stress pure academics over extracurricular activities, resulting in a tendency for the average Asian-American to excel in school, yet be less likely to be accepted by top universities.
This explanation does little to explain, however, why the Asian-American population has almost doubled, while of Asian-American Harvard applicants accepted has remained relatively stagnant – around 20%. It also fails to explain why the number of Asian-Americans accepted into Harvard would rise by 6% in a completely race-neutral system, according to one Princeton study. In that same study, the number of African-Americans and Hispanics accepted was shown to fall by nearly two-thirds and one-half, respectively, while the number of white Americans accepted would remain relatively stagnant.
These statistics, among others, ultimately show that Asian-Americans do tend to be discriminated against in our current system. Universities, driven by a desire to diversify their field of students, have turned to accepting minorities with lesser grades simply because of their race and corresponding socioeconomic factors – which results in high-achieving Asian-Americans pushed out of the picture.
Universities may believe that what they are doing is for the greater good, but it isn’t. This, as shown by numerous studies and countless stories from Asian-Americans all over the U.S., is discrimination – and it is a cruel injustice to the thousands of Asian-Americans who are rejected each year for something they have virtually no control over.