If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know that we have long firmly asserted that Asians and Asian Americans face discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process. It’s unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the case. Because it is the case. And it has been the case for a very long time. Yesterday, a coalition that consisted of more than 60 Asian American groups filed a federal discrimination complaint against Harvard University with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights as well as the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The complaint alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian American applicants.
According to a piece on the complaint brought by this coalition by Janet Lorin in “The Boston Globe,” “Their complaint…reflects longstanding concern among academically high-performing Asian-Americans that they are held to a higher admissions standard at elite U.S. colleges. While they represent about 6 percent of the U.S. population and 21 percent of students admitted to Harvard’s freshman class this fall, they say they are being subjected to the kind of quotas that kept many Jews out of the same institutions in the first half of the 20th century.”
We would like to assert that we are not comfortable with the following analogy: ‘the kind of quotas that kept many Jews out of the same institutions in the first half of the 20th century.” That was a different time and anti-Semitism was rampant not only in college admissions but across the globe. Hitler was alive and well for much of the first half of the twentieth century so we’re not supportive of this analogy one bit. But we do affirm the stance that Asian Americans indeed face discrimination at all highly selective colleges (not only at Harvard).
While we’re not sure what will come of this latest complaint of yesterday, we are indeed happy to see Asian American groups banding together to lift their voices against a practice that we have long insisted is unethical. As Lorin suggests in her piece, “the mounting complaints from Asian-Americans represent a ‘sea change.'” We’re not so sure it represents a sea change. There have been a number of these kinds of suits brought against colleges such as Harvard in the past, but nothing seems to change. But here’s hoping change is on the way! If enough folks lift their voices, eventually — one can only hope — these voices will be heard.