The Corner

Education

How Harvard Defends Its Racially Discriminatory Admissions Process

According to Harvard, Asian Americans are too nerdy in their focus on grades and test scores. That’s my take, anyway, on how the school is defending the lawsuit that has been filed against it for anti–Asian-American admissions discrimination. The plaintiffs in that case will be filing a summary-judgment motion in federal district court on Friday this week, and in anticipation of that the school’s president has posted an open letter and linked to a fuller defense here. Both are instructive.

The suggestion is that the lawsuit would require Harvard to ignore everything about a student applicant except his or her grades and test scores. That’s false, of course: Harvard can consider whatever it likes, so long as it doesn’t subject people to illegal discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity. What’s more, the implication that considering the “whole person” will inevitably result in fewer Asian Americans being admitted is racially offensive stereotyping. And it echoes — as the plaintiffs have noted — Harvard’s past policy of having an anti-Semitic cap on the number of Jews admitted.

I’ll also note that the linked discussion is misleading in implying that the U.S. Education Department found a parallel administrative complaint filed with it to be non-meritorious; it dismissed the complaint only because the department’s policy is to do so whenever a matter becomes the subject of a lawsuit, as is the case here. It’s also wrong to suggest that in all the world only one Edward Blum objects to racial and ethnic discrimination in university admissions. Mr. Blum is hardly alone: Most Americans agree with him.

The president’s letter is no doubt right, however, in trumpeting Harvard’s stubborn insistence against “a truth questioned — again and again and again.” It’s just that here the truth Harvard wants questioned is that it’s wrong to treat people differently because of skin color or what country their ancestors came from.

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