affirmative action

UPDATED

‘Subjective’ view of students’ records seen as bias against high-performing groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Edward Blum’s Students for Fair Admissions has already spawned another complaint about Ivy League admissions practices toward Asian students.

Spurred by Students for Fair Admissions’ lawsuit against Harvard University, a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American associations filed a complaint with the departments of Education and Justice, asking for a civil-rights investigation into Harvard’s alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, the coalition’s representatives invoked Martin Luther King Jr. several times and tangled with another Asian-American group that supports affirmative action, even as they took pains to emphasize that they support socioeconomic-based preferences.

The coalition’s new push also drew an immediate response from Asian-American members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who said they hoped the complaint wasn’t a “back door attack on affirmative action.”

‘Highly subjective and discriminatory’

An executive summary of the complaint credits evidence revealed in Blum’s lawsuit against Harvard for spurring the coalition’s new complaint against Harvard as running a “highly subjective and discriminatory” admissions process.

It cites research going back to 2007 showing Asian-American applicants need much higher scores than other ethnic groups to be admitted, and that their presence at Harvard has remained flat despite their population doubling in the past two decades.

As a result, Asian-American students face “stress/mental health issues, pressure to study more as the bar is raised higher, lack of trust in American institutions, self-identification crises, and fortification of racial barriers,” the summary said.

The coalition wants Harvard to stop using racial quotas or “balancing” as well as “subjective components” used for balancing, and stop using stereotypes of Asian-American applicants in evaluating them. It implies federal agencies should keep tabs on Ivy League admissions practices indefinitely.

Time to document ‘these crimes,’ congressman says

Any admissions system “designed to limit Asian-American applicants is not acceptable, it is morally wrong and it infringes on the constitutional rights of Americans,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, told the press conference, interrupted by immediate applause from a packed room of mostly Asian-American attendees.

Rohrabacher recounted how he “tried to deal with [admissions discrimination] 20 years ago and frankly got shoved to the back of the line,” referring to an earlier investigation by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights that cleared Harvard of wrongdoing against Asian-American applicants.

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The congressman urged Asian Americans to ask their representatives to sign his letter calling for a new investigation into Harvard. He said he’ll sponsor new legislation that requires the Department of Education to “officially document, I would say, these crimes” against Asian Americans by studying admissions practices.

That study will “give us the leverage that we need,” said Rohrabacher, noting that three of five of his Orange County commissioners are Asian American, and “that’s a great thing.”

Michael Wang, who filed complaints against Yale and Princeton in 2013 after they rejected him, told the press conference his academic accomplishments – second in his class, high scores all around and many extracurriculars – should have made him a lock for admission.

“I’m not here to brag about my achievements,” Wang said, describing the “helpless” feeling he had reading rejection letters.

“I can’t change who I am. Being Asian is part of my identity and something I should be proud of,” Wang said: But when schools set quotas against Asian Americans, they learn that “everyone is equal but some people are more equal than others.”

Indian Americans deserve sports quotas

That sense of despondency among Asian-American students was reiterated by speakers, most of them first-generation immigrants.

“I’m an American. Treat me like an American,” said Ajay Kothari, a self-described “Ph.D. rocket scientist” who leads the D.C. chapter of the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin.

He dreads having to tell his nieces and nephews, “You can work hard but you won’t get what you deserve … because you are Indian American.”

If Harvard wants to “make a point,” it should give preference to Indian Americans on its sports teams even though they tend to be worse athletes, Kothari said. “Why are you not doing that?”

An Asian parent in the audience said his peers know that “Asian boys are just impossible” to get into the Ivy League – they “might as well buy a lottery ticket.”

Chunyan Li, a professor of accounting at Pace University and coalition organizer, responded that she met with Rep. Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, and they talked about the possibility of a gender-discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Asian-American males.

A spokeswoman for Foxx told The College Fix that a “potential lawsuit was mentioned in passing” during a meeting with Foxx, “but it’s not anything our staff has details on.”

Organizing committee chair Yukong Zhao told the press conference that Asian-American students are the “most underrepresented group” in the Ivy League based on their application numbers.

“Many Asian-American students have almost perfect SAT scores,” and they are treated as a “monolithic bloc” that lacks creativity and risk-taking under the “subjective holistic evaluation approach” used by elite schools, said Zhao, a Chinese-American author who helped stoke outrage in 2013 against talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel for joking about killing Chinese people.

Zhao said he tells his son, who tutors less privileged children, that he has to work hard because “other people have higher preference than you.” He wants Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to stop Asian-American students from being “treated as second class citizens.”

Chinese Americans vs. everyone else?

Coalition representatives took umbrage at suggestions that their goal would hurt other minorities.

When Carl Hum, vice president for policy and programs with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said from the crowd that affirmative action has repeatedly been upheld as constitutional, Zhao replied that race-based affirmative action is not “effective” because it sidesteps poor children.

The coalition doesn’t mind “using income as a base” to give admissions preferences, Li said. She said recent surveys show 7 in 10 Americans don’t think race should be a factor in affirmative action, so “I would not want to muddle the general issue.”

Yingying Sun, president of the Houston Chinese Alliance, noted her group participates in a coalition that each year pays for school supplies in one or two Houston elementary schools dominated by “underprivileged” students, regardless of race.

Hum’s group released a statement in support of “equal opportunity and affirmative action” at the press conference, citing support from twice as many Asian-American groups as the coalition targeting Harvard.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice accused the coalition of “trying to divide communities” who have benefited from affirmative action, “particularly Pilipino Americans, Southeast Asians, and many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.” Policies at Harvard and other targeted schools are “race sensitive” but do not amount to “quotas,” it said.

The signatory list between the coalition and Hum’s group appears markedly different by country: The coalition is dominated by Chinese-American groups, while Hum’s group cites a broad range of Asia-Pacific groups, including many student clubs.

‘Open their book’ 

Asked why agencies should open a new investigation with Harvard when it was cleared previously, Zhao said all Harvard has to do to prove its innocence is be transparent.

“If they say they have no discrimination, open their book!” Zhao said. If other schools don’t do the same, the coalition will investigate their practices next, he added.

CORRECTION: The Office for Civil Rights is part of the Department of Education, not Justice. The article has been amended to reflect this.

Greg Piper is an associate editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGES: Greg Piper

It’s a couple months late, but a March survey by the Racial Microaggressions Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is getting noticed for its surprising findings about one source of perceived racial slights.

Inside Higher Ed reported this week that the online survey of 4,800 “students of color” in the 2011-2012 academic year found:

About a quarter of respondents said they felt their contributions in the classroom “have been minimized because of race” or that they were “made to feel inferior because of the way they spoke.” About 40 percent said they felt uncomfortable on campus because of their race, with “fraternity- and sorority-certified housing” being cited as the most uncomfortable locations on campus.

Just over half “reported experiences of stereotyping in the classroom,” according to the project report. Then there’s this from IHE:

The respondents described how other students seemed hesitant to sit near them in class, how affirmative action was frequently mentioned by nonminority students as the reason racial minorities were able to attend the university, and how they were often called on specifically to provide a racial minority perspective during discussions.

Writing at Minding the Campus, John Rosenberg sifts through the microaggression anecdotes in the project report:

  • “Assuming that an African American student was admitted to a predominantly or traditionally white institution simply because of Affirmative Action rather than merit is another example of a racial microinsult.”
  • Quote from “a multiracial female”: I was sitting in the library and I overheard other white students discussing admissions and laughing about how the only reason stupid Mexicans could get into this school was due to Affirmative Action. As a student of color, I found it extremely offensive to invalidate the hard work and intelligence of students because of their race. It also made me sad that this view seemed to have been readily accepted by all of the other people in the group, implying that racism is entrenched in many of the students that attend this school.

Rosenberg says that “of course” many minority students would not have been admitted at “selective universities” if admissions were colorblind:

Thus one of the reports recommendations — “To have a more informed student body, disseminate accurate information about how, or if, Affirmative Action plays a role in admitting students of color” — is quite ironic. Transparency about the role of race in admissions is one of the leading demands of the critics of affirmative action. If the authors of this report mean what they say here, they should demand that the University of Illinois release data revealing the test scores of applicants and admits by race.

Read the project report and Rosenberg’s post.

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Debate on race at UCLA between Jason Riley and Randall Kennedy tackles where to lay the blame for the ‘black body count’

LOS ANGELES – Two black intellectuals engaged in a heated exchange at UCLA this week over the high homicide rate among young black men and the shooting deaths of black men by racist or lawless police officers, with one arguing that’s not the main problem facing the black community and the other suggesting it’s a huge crisis.

The dispute took place during a debate on campus titled “Liberal Policies Make it Harder for Black Americans to Succeed” between Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal and Harvard law school Professor Randall Kennedy.

Riley is a noted conservative television and newspaper pundit who has written extensively on racial issues, including in his recent bookPlease Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed.” Kennedy teaches contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations at Harvard Law School. He has likewise written voluminously on race and his most recent book is “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.”DebateSlider

The testy exchange during the debate saw both speakers interrupting each other and raising their voices.

Kennedy contended that racism within police departments is a major problem that leads to the killing of blacks as well as a black distrust of law enforcement and disrespect for the rule of law. He decried “rogue cops,” and suggested the criminal justice system is unable to discipline them.

But Riley pointed out the criminal justice system is “run by one black man who reports to another black man.” He also noted that less than 2 percent of black shooting deaths are at the hands of police officers and that, in fact, 90 percent of black shooting deaths are at the hands of other blacks. He also talked about how some of the worst black crime rates can be found in cities that have historically had many black mayors and police chiefs.

“I don’t think racism is the explanation,” Riley said. “It is not the Klan driving through the neighborhood shooting it up. These black kids in Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and New York are not shooting each other because of white racism. They are shooting each other because they have no sense of what it means to be a man, or to be black for that matter. They have a warped sense of racial identity, and this is how they settle their scores. It does not have to do with white racism and cops, it has to do with upbringing and values in fatherless homes.”

Riley tied his statements in the exchange into his basic point that blacks need to stop blaming the white bogeyman and instead honestly face their own cultural problems.

Kennedy said police – the guardians of law and order – should be held to higher standards than “thugs” who commit crimes.

Riley then noted that homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men, and asked Kennedy whether focusing on police shootings of blacks or blacks shooting of blacks would help reduce the “black body count.”

“That is a huge problem that is going to require a multi-focus,” Kennedy responded. “… I am not saying white racism is the all-debatepurpose explanation for what we are talking about. I am saying is what we are going to have to do is address many different things. One of those things, however, is the problem of police.”

Kennedy argued that while the notion of obeying the law has broken down in some black communities because of some of the reasons Riley stated, he added another reason is “when you see the police acting in a lawless way, that too breaks down the feeling of law-abidingness.”

“There just aren’t enough of those cases to make a dent,” Riley countered. “That is not to say we should ignore the fact that we have cops misbehaving. But it is to say to focus on that is to go wide of the mark. Cops are about six times as likely to be shot by someone black than the opposite. Yet we have [media] commentators selling this scenario that black men in America in poor communities walk around in fear of being shot by cops. That is not the case. They walk around in fear of being shot by other young black men. That is the reality. … The cops are in these neighborhoods because that is where the 9-1-1 calls originate.”

Is focusing on police brutality as the main problem going to reduce the black body count, Riley posited. No, he argued.

“If [police] are now overly concerned with being second-guessed of every decision they make, they are going to be more hesitant, they are going to be less aggressive when it comes to keeping peace in these neighborhoods. That will result, I fear, in a higher black body count.”

It was just one of many issues tackled by the two men during the one-hour debate Monday night at UCLA. They also disagreed on whether affirmative action has helped or hurt African-Americans, and if it’s American’s collective duty to provide “insurance” for victims of racism.

The two debaters’ speaking styles were polar opposites: Riley was soft-spoken, concise, and calm, whereas Professor Kennedy bellowed, used verbose rhetorical flourishes, and often displayed intense emotion.

In Riley’s opening statement, he stressed two major points. First, that liberal social policy since the Civil Rights Act of 1965 has been at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive toward black advancement. Second, that in order to advance, blacks must face tough and often taboo questions about cultural problems within black communities, and cease blaming their problems on residual white racism.

One overarching theme for Riley was the juxtaposition between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Riley stated the government should only be in the business of guaranteeing the former and should not be striving for the latter.

Kennedy structured his opening argument in favor of affirmative action, and the other liberal social policies that Riley called ineffective, by drawing a parallel between these programs and other types of “social insurance” the government provides.

Kennedy argued that Americans collectively provide insurance for disasters, disability, age, economic depression like that seen in the financial crisis of 2008, and the destruction wrought by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He then offered the premise that racism is a social catastrophe that should be viewed by government in a similar fashion as the other sorts of catastrophes he mentioned. He stressed that it is American’s collective duty to provide “insurance” for victims of racism. Kennedy proclaimed one form this insurance could take would be to guarantee every person in the country a job, whether they have the skills for the job or not.

In the rebuttal period, Riley called Kennedy out for not addressing his claim that the last fifty years of liberal social policy have led to black retrogression. He said the argument against affirmative action and other similar policies is a pragmatic rather than a theoretical one.

Riley said there is 50 years of history showing that such policies simply don’t work. He gave some evidence to bolster his argument: between 1940 and 1960 the black poverty rate fell by 40 percent, all before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the rate of decrease in the poverty rate has slowed since liberal policies began to be implemented in the 60s. He also noted that black unemployment rates and incarceration rates were lower in the 60s than they are now.

Riley conceded that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were “liberalism at its best,” but that most of the economic gains blacks have made can’t be attributed to government policies such as affirmative action. Riley noted that the number of black “white-collar workers” quadrupled between 1940 and 1970, before affirmative action was implemented.

In Kennedy’s rebuttal, he refuted Riley’s argument that the blame for black retrogression should be laid at liberalism’s doorstep, noting liberals haven’t had a monopoly over policy in the last fifty years inasmuch as Reagan and both Bushes have served as presidents.

In addressing affirmative action, Kennedy flashed his oratory skills: “I am an unapologetic champion of affirmative action, I am an affirmative action baby, I’m not suffering a neurotic tremor about that.”

Responding to Riley’s point that pragmatism should be the focus in designing policy, Kennedy said “I’m experimental, even if it’s a conservative idea, give it a shot to see if it works.”

Roughly 75 people turned out for the debate. Matt Malkan, a professor of physics at UCLA who attended, said the debate was historic, with nothing like it happening in the last 10 to 15 years on campus.

It was hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization dedicated to “Educating for Liberty” and co-founded by conservative icon William F. Buckley.

College Fix reporter Josh Hedtke is a student at UCLA.

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The College Fix covered the story of Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother to actress Mindy Kaling, who said he got into med school with a 3.1 GPA after pretending to be black on his application. The Indian American is a strong opponent of affirmative action policies.

Now he’s being challenged by an Asian-American student at the University of Chicago for letting whites off the hook for stealing spots from Asian Americans.

Eleanor Hyun writes in The Chicago Maroon that she’s skeptical Chokal-Ingam’s story even holds up – calling several aspects “suspect” – and speculates that he could’ve gotten into med school by pretending to be white:

It is a well-known fact that, with the same MCAT score and GPA, black applicants have a higher chance of getting into medical schools than Asian or white applicants. … What is much less discussed, and much more difficult to justify, is the fact that, with the same MCAT and GPA, white applicants also have a higher chance of getting into medical school than Asian applicants. …

For some reason, it is always imagined that a black or Hispanic student is the one who is “stealing our spot.”

Hyun, the incoming editor in chief of the Maroon, has some charts comparing “underrepresented minority,” white and Asian applicants to med school based on their GPA.

The funny thing is, there are stories of Asians who can pass as white (as a result of being multiracial, for example) trying to do so in admissions. Many opt out of self-identifying as Asian on their applications. However, the story which has now emerged into the national consciousness is the story which pits two minorities against each other—the story of a South Asian man pretending to be black.

Hyun warns Asians not to fall for the crusade led by Edward Blum, whose Project on Fair Representation (now Students for Fair Admissions) is suing Harvard on claims of discriminating against Asian applicants:

Their interests do not lie in representing Asians, but in co-opting Asian voices for their own benefit. And what we see is that this isn’t a minority-versus-minority problem. It has to do with minorities being pitted against each other instead of addressing the actual source of oppression—the majority.

So… let’s fight Whitey together?

To almost exclusively frame discrimination against Asians within arguments about affirmative action is an incredibly narrow-minded approach—so narrow-minded that it only makes sense within the context of sustaining an existing racial pecking order. Discrimination in admissions has to do with much more than, and much beyond, affirmative action. It has to do with the fact that Asians are also a racial minority in America and subsequently face the discrimination that comes along with that status. It has to do with the fact that our accomplishments are dismissed as the products of an academic machine instead of a human being. And that’s something that we definitely should, and need to fight against. But this conflation with arguments against affirmative action is not the way to do it.

Read the op-ed.

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IMAGE: Eleanor Hyun’s Facebook page

“The true story of an Indian American who got into medical school by pretending to be an African American.”

So says Vijay Chokal-Ingam, the brother of Mindy Kaling from the hit TV show “The Mindy Project,” who has just come out of the closet.

On his new website Almost Black, he has gone public with the story of how, 15 years ago, he got into med school by pretending to be black.

As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words:

AlmostBlack

His Almost Black website states in part:

In my junior year of college, I realized that I didn’t have the grades or test scores to get into medical school, at least not as an Indian-American.

Still, I was determined to become a doctor and I knew that admission standards for certain minorities under affirmative action were, let’s say… less stringent?

So, I shaved my head, trimmed my long Indian eyelashes, and applied to medical school as a black man. My change in appearance was so startling that my own fraternity brothers didn’t recognize me at first.  I even joined the Organization of Black Students and started using my embarrassing middle name that I had hidden from all of my friends since I was a 9 years old.

Vijay the Indian-American frat boy become Jojo the African American Affirmative Action applicant to medical school.

Not everything worked out as planned. Cops harassed me. Store clerks accused me of shoplifting. Women were either scared of me or couldn’t keep their hands off me. What started as a devious ploy to gain admission to medical school turned into twisted social experiment.

I became a serious contender at some of the greatest medical schools in America, including Harvard, Wash U, UPenn, Case Western, and Columbia. In all, I interviewed at eleven prestigious medical schools in 9 major cities across America, while posing a black man.

Not bad for a kid with a 3.1 College GPA, heh?

My plan actually worked. Lucky for you, I never became a doctor.

The New York Post reports Chokal-Ingam “wound up dropping out of St. Louis University Medical School two years after he got in under false pretenses. He eventually was accepted at, and graduated from, UCLA Anderson’s MBA program — as an Asian Indian-American.”

The Post also interviewed Chokal-Ingam:

“I love my sister to death,” Chokal-Ingam, 38, told The Post in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he and his comedienne sibling both live. But they’re fighting over his revelation. “She says this will bring shame on the family.” …

Chokal-Ingam says he’s revealing his race ruse now because he heard that UCLA is considering strengthening its affirmative-action admissions policies. He says it’s a myth that affirmative action benefits the underprivileged.

… Chokal-Ingam said, “Racism is not the answer…. It also promotes negative stereotypes about the competency of minority Americans by making it seem like they need special treatment.”

Chokal-Ingam actually Tweeted out one of The College Fix’s recent stories, and by reading the headline you probably won’t be surprised as to why:

The article featured University of Michigan philosophy professor Carl Cohen, a liberal scholar who has argued against affirmative action for decades.

“When admission preference is associated with skin color, the result is the strengthening of the ignorant stereotype that people having skins of that color are intellectually weak. This a canard, but it is reinforced by preference,” Cohen told The Fix. “Preference in admission is a very bad thing for the minority preferred! It is also morally wrong, because it violates the fundamental principle that the races must be treated equally in a decent society.”

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IMAGES: Almost Black

Giving students preferential treatment because of the color of their skin does not help minority college students – and in fact – it hurts them.

So says University of Michigan Professor Carl Cohen, who cannot be labeled as one of those token conservative scholars who speak out against affirmative action.

Cohen’s recently published bookA Conflict of Principles: The Battle over Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan” was profiled earlier this month in The Wall Street Journal, which noted the philosophy professor was “a liberal when he joined the Michigan faculty in 1955 (he is now 83).” ProfCohen

“Mr. Cohen stuck to his belief in colorblind law even as educators at his own campus and elsewhere abandoned it,” the Journal reported. “Early in his career, he joined the debate over preferences, arguing against them in various publications and at public events, though to this day he donates money to the NAACP and the ACLU, both ardent supporters of preferences.”

In A Conflict of Principles, Professor Cohen continues to grind against the grain in the world of academia by denouncing racial preferences for college admissions, this time with a special focus on his own employer, the University of Michigan, which has been embroiled in several high-profile affirmative action lawsuits.

The College Fix conducted the following interview with Professor Cohen on the subject:

What motivated you investigate affirmative action at the University of Michigan?

Cohen: The philosophical justification of democracy rests upon the conviction that all members of some community are equal. In a democracy any preference for a racial group is intolerable. I learned, in 1995, that my university, the University of Michigan — which I love – was apparently giving race preference in admissions. I felt obliged to get the details and to seek to change that practice.

What response did you expect to receive from your coworkers, administrators, or alumni, and how did this differ from the actual response you were given?

Cohen: Most students and faculty here believed, mistaken in my view, that admissions preference was an advantage for minorities. In fact, it is very damaging to blacks and CarlCohenother minorities when it is known that they have been preferred because of their race. But I knew that, since they believed preference was an advantage for minorities, my colleagues and students would for the most part disagree with me. And what I expected was in fact realized. They did. They still do. Disagreement here at the University of Michigan, however, was and remains courteous and civil, even when intense.

Do you feel that affirmative action is a well-intentioned but poorly executed program, or that it should be scrapped entirely and replaced?

Cohen: Affirmative action has many forms. It can be honorable and right. When it takes the form of outright preference, it is morally wrong and deeply unwise. If preference is what is meant by affirmative action, it should be scrapped entirely, for sure.

What system would you like to see for bolstering admission rates for minorities, if you feel a system is needed at all?

Cohen: To bolster admission rates we need to provide the education – especially early childhood education! That will enable minority applicants to succeed on their own merits.

Do you feel the University of Michigan administration treated you different after publishing your book?

Cohen: No, not at all. I have many friends among our administration; I respect and like them, even when I disagree with them. I think they respect me, as well.

If you could change just one thing about racial preferences in the college admissions process, what would it be?

Cohen: One thing to change about race preference, had I the power? Eliminate it.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cohen: When admission preference is associated with skin color, the result is the strengthening of the ignorant stereotype that people having skins of that color are intellectually weak. This a canard, but it is reinforced by preference.

Preference in admission is a very bad thing for the minority preferred! It is also morally wrong, because it violates the fundamental principle that the races must be treated equally in a decent society.

College Fix reporter David Hookstead is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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IMAGE: Kijkwijzer