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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Harvard discriminates against introverts

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Harvard discriminates against introverts, argues Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at Penn, in the Washington Post.

Harvard is being sued by Asian-Americans, who charge the university engaged in unlawful discrimination. Asian-American applicants were given lower “personality” scores by admission officers — but not by interviewers who actually met them.

Zimmerman isn’t sure if the “personality” evaluation documents show bias against Asian-Americans, but he definitely sees a preference for gregarious spotlight lovers.

Consider this example, which the New York Times drew from the hundreds of documents that have been filed in the Harvard lawsuit. An Asian American applicant was described as a “hard worker,” but “would she relax and have any fun?” Other Asian American candidates were characterized the same way — industrious and high-achieving but often lacking in “distinguishing excellence” (or “DE” in admissions shorthand). Nor were they likely to be seen as “leaders,” the figures who stand out from the crowd by standing in front of it.

A bias against introverts disproportionately hurts students raised in an Asian culture, Zimmerman writes. “Cross-cultural studies have demonstrated that people in the East tend to emphasize traits such as humility and hard work, while Americans more often favor cheerfulness and enthusiasm.”

Christine Tam writes about being quiet and Asian.

I think admissions officers are just looking for ways to exclude Asians so they can admit more blacks, Latinos and whites.

Drop the euphemisms about affirmative action, argues Megan McArdle. If the goal is closing racial gaps, “diversity” doesn’t work in a more diverse U.S.

“Diversity” is closer in actual meaning to “racial balancing” than to “rectifying past injustice,” but in deference to the Supreme Court, we’ve blurred the distinction. Now, however, we’re being forced to confront the way racial balancing encourages anti-Asian discrimination. Some unblurring is in order. . . . pursuing racial balance zealously would mean either a politically unpalatable commitment to white underrepresentation or continued discrimination against Asian American students. It would also mean admitting defeat in the battle for racial equality, accepting achievement gaps as permanent.

Affirmative action isn’t about diversity, argues Jeannie Suk Gersen, a Harvard law professor of Asian origin. Affirmative action, she says, “has to do with groups that have been wronged and held back.”

John McWhorter, a Columbia University linguistics professor, agrees that affirmative action is really about righting wrongs not about “diversity.” McWhorter, who’s black, believes it’s “racist to argue that the growing number of middle-class blacks are incapable of competing without preferences,” McArdle writes. He supports affirmative action based on economic disadvantage rather than race,

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