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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Harvard: Asians aren’t likable, kind, ‘respected’

Asian-Americans are less likely to get into Harvard, despite higher grades and test scores and stronger extracurriculars than other applicants, concludes an analysis of 160,000 student records by Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing the university for discrimination. Admissions officers gave Asian-Americans lower “personal” scores for traits such as personality, likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” reports Anemona Hartocollis in the New York Times.

“Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s,” charges Students for Fair Admissions.

“In court papers, Harvard said that a statistical analysis could not capture the many intangible factors that go into Harvard admissions,” writes Hartocollis.

What’s striking is that alumni interviewers, who meet applicants, thought Asian-Americans were just as personable, likable, etc. as whites. It was admissions officers, who typically don’t meet applicants, who rated Asian-Americans lower than whites on personal qualities.

A 2013 university review found that the Asian-American share of the class would rise to 43 percent from 19 percent if only academic achievement was considered.

After accounting for Harvard’s preference for recruited athletes and legacy applicants, the proportion of whites went up, while the share of Asian-Americans fell to 31 percent. Accounting for extracurricular and personal ratings, the share of whites rose again, and Asian-Americans fell to 26 percent. What brought the Asian-American number down to roughly 18 percent, or about the actual share (in 2013), was accounting for a category called “demographic,” the study found. This pushed up African-American and Hispanic numbers, while reducing whites and Asian-Americans. . . . “Further details (especially around the personal rating) may provide further insight,” Harvard’s internal report said.

There was no further insight because “Harvard killed the study,” the plaintiffs wrote.

“Harvard said that the review was discounted because it was preliminary and incomplete,” reports Hartocollis.

Race is a “dominant” factor in admissions, the lawsuit charges. An Asian-American applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he were white, 75 percent if he were Hispanic, and 95 percent chance if he were African-American,” according to the plaintiffs.

Currently, about half of students admitted to Harvard are white (or other), while nearly 23 percent are Asian-American, 15 percent African-American and 12 percent Latino. Relative to their share of the population, whites and Latinos are under-represented, while blacks and Asian-Americans are over-represented.

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