A controversial new study claims Harvard routinely gave Asian-American applicants the lowest score of any racial group on subjective traits such as “positive personality,” “likeability” and “kindness.”
The study, disputed by the elite Ivy League, tracked 160,000 student records over several years and was filed in federal court in Boston Friday by the conservative-leaning nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing the school.
The author of the study, Duke Professor Peter Arcidiacono, purportedly found “overwhelming evidence that Harvard’s admissions process disproportionately harms Asian-American applicants,” according to the group’s filing.
“There is no excuse for this, and Harvard cannot offer a single exculpatory explanation that a rational factfinder could accept. Asian-American applicants to Harvard are just as ‘helpful,’ ‘courageous,’ and ‘kind’ as white applicants,” the filing states.
“Any explanation Harvard does offer would be a thinly veiled racial stereotype about Asian Americans,” the paperwork argues.
According to Arcidiacono, Asian-American applicants received overall scores by alumni interviewers that were “virtually identical” to those of white applicants. But the school’s 40-member admissions committee allegedly gave them the worst scores of any racial group, sometimes without meeting them, his study found.
Students for Fair Admissions, based in Arlington, Va., is run by Edward Blum, a longtime crusader against affirmative action.
Harvard is attacking the group’s analysis as flawed.
“Thorough and comprehensive analysis of the data and evidence makes clear that Harvard College does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans, whose rate of admission has grown 29% over the last decade,” the school said in a statement.
Harvard said the report submitted by Students for Fair Admissions paints “a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College’s whole-person admissions process.”
Harvard said the report failed to consider “critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations.”
“Harvard will continue to vigorously defend our right, and that of other colleges and universities nationwide, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, from its capacity for academic excellence to its ability to help create a campus community that gives every student the opportunity to learn from peers with a wide variety of academic interests, perspectives, and talents,” the school said in a statement to the Daily News.
The school also disputed claims that an internal study at Harvard found evidence of bias against Asian-Americans in 2013.
It said the 2013 report was incomplete and preliminary.
Both sides filed motions Friday asking for summary judgment, meaning immediate rulings that would end the pending lawsuit in their favor.
If the case moves ahead, a trial is scheduled to begin in October.
Considering the resources on both sides, the battle could rage all the way to the Supreme Court, where it could put the issue of affirmative action back in play for all schools.
Harvard admitted 2,037 students for its class of 2012, out of 39,506 applicants, according to its website. The class is 14.6% African-American, 22.2% Asian-American, 11.6% Latino and 2.5% Native American or Pacific Islander, the school says on its website.