Indian, Asian groups challenge Harvard admission practices

PTI New York | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 16, 2015

Harvard University is discriminating against Asian-American applicants by using race, the complaint said. File Photo   -  Reuters

Four Indian-American groups are among a coalition of 64 organisations that have filed a complaint against Harvard University and other Ivy League schools alleging “racial-bias” against high-scoring Asian-Americans in their admission process.

The 50-page complaint, filed before the US departments of Education and Justice, alleged that “Harvard University has engaged illegally in direct discrimination against Asian-American applicants by using stereotypes and racial bias in its subjective ‘Holistic Evaluation Approach’ and racial quota/rebalancing.”

The complaint further alleged that Harvard University is discriminating against Asian-American applicants by using race as a major factor beyond what is allowed by relevant Supreme Court decisions. “Consequently, Asian-American applicants have become the largest group of victims of Harvard’s racially based admissions practices,” they alleged.

Among the 64 organisations of Chinese, Korean and Pakistani students, there are four Indian-American groups: National Federation of Indian American Associations, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin-Los Angeles Chapter, BIT Sindri Alumni Association of North India, and American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin.

The complaint urged the federal government to ask Harvard to immediately “cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluating Asian-American applicants during its admission process”.

The complaint also asks Harvard to disclose the qualifications of its applicant pool, at least at a level comparable to such data disclosed by elite public universities, given that Harvard, too, is the recipient of significant federal funding. “We believe that a racially based admission process has played a major role in Harvard and other Ivy League colleges’ discrimination against Asian-American applicants,” it alleged, and cited the example of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi to illustrate that Asian-Americans have managed to rise to the top and emerge as role models.

Many Asian-American organisations and individual students have voiced their rejection of such an unfair treatment in the past as well.

In 2006, Jian Li, a Chinese-American student filed a complaint against Princeton University, while in 2012, an Indian-American student filed a complaint against Harvard. In 2013, Michael Wang, another Chinese-American student, filed a complaint against Yale and Princeton University.

Most significantly, on November 17, 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, filed a federal lawsuit against Harvard.

The Harvard University claims that its approach to admissions has been found to be “fully compliant with federal law” and the percentage of Asian-American students admitted to the undergraduate school has risen to 21 per cent from less than 18 per cent in the past decade.

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Published on May 16, 2015
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