Harvard Does Not Use Racial Quotas

Harvard Admissions, Harvard Quotas, Admission to Harvard University
Harvard does not use racial quotas in their admissions process.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to be highlighting some portions of the decision reached in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University case as Judge Allison Burroughs’ 130-page decision abounds in interesting conclusions — and, frankly, fodder about the highly selective college admissions process. Today, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the conclusion reached by the court that Harvard does not use racial quotas in the admissions process. In spite of a number of loud voices who have, over the years, claimed Harvard uses quotas in admissions to discriminate against Asian American applicants, we have long asserted that the school — while we believe it sure does discriminate against Asian American applicants — does not use racial quotas nor does any other highly selective college.

Harvard Doesn’t Currently Use Racial Quotas in Admissions, But They Did Years Ago

In fact, we’ve always taken offense to the suggestion that Harvard uses racial quotas in today’s admissions practices to discriminate against Asian American applicants. And why? Because there was a time in which Harvard’s admissions office really did use racial quotas not to discriminate against Asian American applicants but to discriminate against Jewish applicants. Back in the day when Harvard drew the vast majority of its students from exclusive New England boarding schools, Jewish applicants so often didn’t make Harvard’s cut — and the admissions office was quite open about their reasoning. The sociologist Jerome Karabel wrote an excellent book on the topic, aptly titled The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton that we encourage our readers to read should any of them not believe Harvard used to openly use quotas in their admissions practices.

Judge Debunks the False Assertion that Harvard Uses Racial Quotas

As Judge Burroughs expertly writes in her decision in the landmark college admissions case likely headed to our nation’s highest court, “Harvard does not have any racial quotas and has not attempted to achieve classes with any specified racial composition…Harvard evaluates the likely racial composition of its class and provides tips to applicants to help it achieve a diverse class. Those tips are necessary to achieve a diverse class given the relative paucity of minority applicants that would be admitted without such a tip. In trying to assure a diverse class, when reviewing an individual applicant, the admissions officers consider various qualitative and numerical indicators of diversity, including the racial composition of the group of students who are expected to be admitted.”

She continues, “Although Harvard tracks and considers various indicators of diversity in the admissions process, including race, the racial composition of Harvard’s admitted classes has varied in a manner inconsistent with the imposition of a racial quota or racial balancing…Since 1980, the Asian American proportion of the admitted class has increased roughly five-fold, and since 1990 the Asian American proportion of the admitted class has increased roughly two-fold. SFFA did not offer expert testimony on racial balancing and instead asserts that the claim can be resolved without any expert analysis.”

Have a question about the judge’s opinion? Still believe Harvard uses racial quotas in admissions? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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