There’s an article posted on “Forbes” today authored by Steven Cohen that we figured we’d share with our readers. For those of you who read our college admissions blog regularly, you may know that we’ve been quite critical of Mr. Cohen’s writing in the past, but in this particular editorial, “The Secret Quotas in College Admissions,” he’s — generally — spot on. That is if you completely ignore the first paragraph of his piece, which reads as follows: “A coalition of 64 Asian-American groups has filed a complaint against Harvard for discriminating against Asian-American kids in admissions. They’re right to assume there is a quota system at work. But they’re wrong that it is targeting Asian Americans. In fact, it is discriminating in favor of Blacks and Hispanics.” Indeed the latter two groups do have increased odds of admission on account of the fact that they are underrepresented minorities, but the suggestion that Asian Americans (and Asians) aren’t discriminated against in the highly selective college admissions process is flat out wrong. We can go on and on about why Mr. Cohen is wrong on this point, but we’ve already made our point time and time again.
But, with the exception of this incorrect assertion, Mr. Cohen makes extremely valid points later on in his piece. He writes about tags for applications such as recruited athletes, legacies, development cases, etc. As Mr. Cohen articulates, “Without another tag, it is within the academic niche that smart kids compete – basically against each other. That’s why the Asian American Coalition’s complaint is flawed: it assumes the Asian American kids are competing against Blacks, Hispanics, and Caucasians. Without special interest tag, they’re not; they’re competing against all just-smart kids; mainly each other.” And that is absolutely true. Asian American and Asian applicants are competing against Asian American and Asian applicants. And that’s a big part of the reason why they face discrimination in the holistic admissions process…because so many of their applications read similarly. So few Asian American and Asian applicants successfully differentiate themselves. So many play into — rather than defy — stereotypes.
But, in our humble opinion, that doesn’t undercut the complaint filed by these Asian American groups, a complaint we think not much will come of but it’s one that is surely not without its merits. Rather, Mr. Cohen’s argument just adds quite accurate specificity (yes, we’ll back some of his argument up because much of what he says is entirely correct and well articulated) to just how Asian Americans (and Asians) are discriminated against in the highly selective college admissions process. We won’t use the term “quotas” in reference to their discrimination because there aren’t quotas, as we’ve stated many times before. But just because there aren’t quotas doesn’t mean they aren’t discriminated against.