'Yellow Peril' Redux

Most people are familiar with so-called affirmative action policies that favor blacks (purportedly to redress past discrimination) and Hispanics and penalize whites. Racial preferences are discriminatory toward individuals of Asian descent as well.

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating complaints that Harvard and Princeton discriminate against Asian students in admissions.

Naturally, the schools deny the claims. Harvard "does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants," spokesman Jeff Neal told Bloomberg. "Our review of every applicant's file is highly individualized and holistic, as we give serious consideration to all of the information we receive and all of the ways in which the candidate might contribute to our vibrant educational environment and community."

Asian students typically have a higher level of academic success and tend to be overrepresented in colleges and universities, particularly in California. Asians are about 5.6 percent of the U.S. population (Asian only and Asian multiracial) and 13 percent of California's population, but they account for about 30 percent of undergraduates in the University of California (UC) system.

In 2009, UC's Board of Regents voted to change the admissions policy, which included eliminating the requirement that applicants take two SAT subject tests, effective this year. The obvious intent of the changes is to expand the black and Hispanic applicant pool. The Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus said the new rules would reduce the percentages of Asian Pacific Islanders from 32.6 percent to 25.2 percent of the eligibility pool.

Asian families also have complained about these changes and believe the new policy will negatively impact their children, who tend to do well on standardized exams. It's obvious why a school that wants to increase diversity would eliminate or reduce the weight of such exams. Blacks generally tend to do worse than other groups.

In 2009, Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton University professor, and Alexandria Walton Radford, who holds a doctorate from Princeton, published a study that revealed students of Asian descent faced discrimination at elite colleges and universities. An Asian student needs to score 140 points higher than whites on the math and reading portions of the SAT, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than blacks to have the same chances of admission. If that's not racial/ethnic discrimination, what is?

"[A]ll other things equal," Espenshade told Insider Higher Ed, "Asian-American students are at a disadvantage relative to white students, and at an even bigger disadvantage relative to black and Latino students."