Two high school students who happen to be of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage have joined in a previously filed lawsuit against Harvard University. But, interestingly, they’ve joined the suit as amici curiae — as friends of the court. For those not familiar with the legal term, it means that these students will be allowed to submit briefs in the case in support of the role that Affirmative Action plays in the holistic admissions process at Harvard. Interestingly, one of the students, Jason Fong, applied for admission to Harvard this year. We don’t know if he applied in the Early Action round or Regular Decision round but unless his admission was denied in the Early round, he still has a shot to get in. And the other student, identified as M.A., intends to apply to Harvard in the future, according to “The Harvard Crimson.” Could this have been an attempt to secure a place in the Harvard admissions office’s good graces? If so, it’s way too transparent if you ask us! We’d never recommend such a move.
As William S. Flanagan and Michael E. Xie write in their piece in “The Harvard Crimson,” “The lawsuit, brought by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans in its undergraduate admissions processes. Fong and M. A., in their initial motion to join the lawsuit, wrote that they believed they would bring a unique perspective to the lawsuit as Asian American and Pacific Islander students in support of affirmative action. In early Jan., Fong wrote an op-ed calling on Asian Americans to rally behind affirmative action and holistic admissions. ‘I don’t understand how we ever got the idea that a fantastic report card, amazing test scores, and participation in activities that supposedly show ‘well-roundedness’ mean that we are entitled to admission to our dream school,’ Fong wrote.”
In our mind, the only reason two students would join a lawsuit against Harvard — as friends of the court — would be to get in the good graces of Harvard, to improve their case for admission to the university. And this would be a most transparent move unlikely to work.
We have long argued on the pages of our college admissions blog — and in many news publications — that highly selective colleges do indeed discriminate against Asian American applicants. Of course they do. And of course Asian Americans deserve better in the college admissions process. But we’ve also argued that not only are these types of lawsuits the wrong way to try to go about enacting change but the plaintiffs in the cases are unwisely selected. Contrary to what Mr. Fong states in his editorial, highly selective universities like Harvard do not seek well-rounded students. They seek singularly talented students. So why, as an example, would the Asian American Coalition for Education, one of the groups that has brought complaints against universities with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, choose plaintiffs that are well-rounded? There are much better ways to make the case that highly selective colleges discriminate against Asian Americans than to choose plaintiffs with profiles that these colleges expressly do not seek.
Do our readers have any intuition on why these two students would seek to add their voices to this suit? Do you think their motivations are as transparent as we do? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.