June 6, 2015

DIVERSITY COMEUPPANCE:  Kate Bachelder at WSJ has a great column on “Harvard’s Chinese Exclusion Act“:

Getting into Harvard is tough enough: Every year come the stories about applicants who built toilets in developing countries, performed groundbreaking lunar research, or won national fencing competitions, whatever it takes to edge out the competition. So you can imagine that the 52-year-old Florida businessman and author Yukong Zhao is incensed that gaining admission may be even harder for his children—because of their race.

“It’s not a political issue,” he says. “It’s a civil-rights issue.”

Mr. Zhao helped organize 64 groups that last month asked the Education Department to investigate Harvard University for discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions. The allegation is that Harvard is holding Asian-Americans to higher standards to keep them from growing as a percentage of the student body. The complaint, filed also with the Justice Department, follows a lawsuit against the university last fall by the nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions. . . .

This spring, 21% of the students admitted to Harvard were Asian-American; in 1993 it was about 20%. Harvard selects students based on criteria it calls “holistic,” taking into consideration subjective qualities such as, according to the university’s website, “interests,” “character” and “growth.”

Yet look how Harvard stacks up against schools that explicitly don’t consider ethnicity in admissions. At the California Institute of Technology, the share of Asian-American students hit 42.5% in 2013—double Harvard’s and a big jump from Caltech’s 26% in 1993. At the University of California-Berkeley it is more than 30%; the state’s voters banned the state schools from using racial preferences in a 1996 referendum. The trend is also observable at elite high schools with race-neutral admissions: New York City’s Hunter College High School was 49% Asian-American in 2013.

This disparity suggests “a de facto quota system” at Harvard, Mr. Zhao tells me over dinner at a restaurant near his home in Orlando, where he works for a large energy company. Racial quotas aren’t allowed thanks to a 1978 Supreme Court ruling, but in 2003 the court confirmed that colleges could use race as a “plus” factor.

That “plus” factor decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, allowed the University of Michigan law school’s race-conscious, “holistic” admission program but warned:

“When using race as a ‘plus’ factor in university admissions, a university’s admissions program must remain flexible enough to ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application. The importance of this individualized consideration in the context of a race-conscious admissions program is paramount.”

What Harvard and other “diversity”-driven admissions programs are doing isn’t giving Asian students a “plus” factor (as it is with “underrepresented” black or Hispanic students). Instead, being Asian with impeccable credentials is actually a “negative” factor that prevents such Asian students from being evaluated as an individual, which illustrates how perverse the quest for “diversity” has become.  The same can be said for white students who lose admissions seats to minority students with less impressive objective credentials.  But the incredibly high credentials of Asian students helps bolster the case that “diversity” is just progressive code for “discrimination” based on race rather than increasing educational opportunities for minority students.

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