Fighting to End Asian American Discrimination in Admissions

Asian American discrimination in elite college admissions is very real and it’s high time it be addressed.

We have long argued from atop our soapbox in college admissions that Asian American applicants to America’s elite universities deserve better. And why? Because for many years, Asian American applicants have faced discrimination in the admissions process to America’s most selective institutions. Will admissions officers ever admit that they discriminate against Asian American young people? Don’t hold your breath. But implicit bias is real. How do we know it’s real? A study from back in 2009 found that, controlling for all other variables, Asian American applicants needed to score 140 points higher on the SAT than white applicants to enjoy the same chances of admission. That, of course, was a deeply unsettling finding. But so too was the documentary evidence and testimony stemming from the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University trial.

The Courts Have Spoken and They’re Not Going to Help Asian American Applicants

Harvard, of course, won the landmark case in which the university was accused of discriminating against Asian American applicants in its admissions process, but even Judge Allison Burroughs acknowledged in her ruling that the university’s admissions practices needed improvement. As she wrote in her ruling, “Notwithstanding the fact that Harvard’s admissions program survives strict scrutiny, it is not perfect. The process would likely benefit from conducting implicit bias trainings for admissions officers, maintaining clear guidelines on the use of race in the admissions process, which were developed during this litigation, and monitoring and making admissions officers aware of any significant race-related statistical disparities in the rating process.” Amen, Judge Burroughs!

The Fight to End Asian American Discrimination in Admissions Must Begin with the Populace

But how exactly are highly selective universities supposed to root out anti-Asian American bias in admissions if the courts don’t rule in their favor? That’s easy. After all, we never believed the courts could stop Asian American discrimination in admissions in its tracks. Rather, as we voiced when the case was first filed and as we steadfastly maintain today, change in America begins with the populace — not in our courts. It begins in places like The Stonewall Inn. It begins in Selma. It beings in Seneca Falls. Our courts, while vitally important, have a tendency to seal civil rights gains earned by the populace into our nation’s laws. But they are gains that we Americans first fight for outside of the halls of justice.

A United Asian American Community Has the Power to Change the Market Conditions in Elite College Admissions

And it seems we’re no longer alone in championing this view. In a fantastic piece published this week by Steve H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. Walters for National Review entitled “Asian-American Ivy League Applicants Can Trust Markets More Than Courts,” they write, “Unfortunately, our legal system seems to offer no remedy. In 2015, Asian-American plaintiffs lost a discrimination case against Princeton. Last November, a federal appeals court affirmed a lower-court decision that Harvard’s use of race in admissions was permissible because it did not constitute a ‘racial quota’ (though plaintiffs promise to appeal to the Supreme Court)…But there is a powerful remedy for discriminatory conduct apart from law or politics: Market competition is an enduring and reliable force for justice…That’s the way markets work to penalize bias and reward virtue: Schools that become excessively devoted to identity politics and underweight merit will find their competition gaining on them. Rankings will shift and applicant enthusiasm and alumni support will wax or wane accordingly. In response, all are likely to do a better job shedding their biases — or those that do not will struggle until they see the error of their ways.”

Jewish Young People Changed Market Conditions Many Years Ago When Facing Quotas in Elite College Admissions

We echo the words of Mr. Hanke and Mr. Walters. Between World War I and World War II, Ivy League schools discriminated against Jewish applicants through the use of quotas. Yes, they literally counted up the number of Jewish students they chose to admit so as not to exceed certain figures. The repulsive quota system led to the foundation of Brandeis University, an institution founded the same year as the State of Israel, to educate Jewish students. As Mr. Hanke and Mr. Walters write, “As [Brandeis] and other competitors rose, Harvard and other Ivies were forced to reverse course. Today, Jews represent less than 3 percent of the nation’s population but staff 9 percent of university faculties and 17 percent of those at top-ranked institutions.” Brandeis, in many ways, helped usher in market conditions that would ultimately stymie discrimination against Jewish applicants in elite college admissions.

We Want to Help Usher in This Important Change

It is our fervent hope that, together, we can work to help stop Asian American discrimination in elite college admissions in its tracks. Because the courts are not going to create the changes that Asian American applicants deserve. They cannot and should not be relied upon. Rather, as Mr. Hanke and Mr. Walters so eloquently argue in their editorial, we need to help the Asian American community fight for equality by ushering in new market conditions for elite American universities. So we’re here to brainstorm ways to change the market. We’re here to brainstorm how this community can create the change so many of us wish to see. And if you’ve got an idea for how to change the market conditions to benefit Asian American applicants in elite college admissions, do post it below. We wish to open the conversation.

 
 

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