‘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.


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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Members of Harvard Law School student groups want — wait for it! — diversity emphasized in the search for a new dean.

Hoping for a candidate with “professional experience with diversity and inclusion,” the groups are working with the school’s human resources department and the consulting firm (appropriately named) Diversified Search.

The departing dean, Ellen M. Cosgrove, also served as a Law School Title IX officer.

The Harvard Crimson reports:

Students who are participating in the search process said last semester’s protests and activism in response to the non-indictment of police officers who killed unarmed black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, brought to the forefront the importance of diversity and inclusion at the Law School.

In December, a number of student groups, called the “Harvard Law School Affinity Group Coalition,” co-signed an open letter criticizing Dean of the Law School Martha L. Minow and the Law School administration for their response to the events in Ferguson and Staten Island. Student groups part of the coalition include Harvard Law School Lambda, an LGBTQ group, and Harvard Middle Eastern Law School Students Association, among others.

“That’s something we really think is important, is finding a new dean of students who will make sure the diversity and inclusion issues that Harvard Law students have been expressing are a priority to them,” said Leland S. Shelton, the president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.

Student leaders from groups that are not part the affinity coalition, including Isabel J. Broer, the president of the Board of Student Advisers, also said issues of diversity and inclusion are primary concerns in the search process.

But “the million dollar question,” as co-president of Students for Inclusion Rena T. Karefa-Johnson says, is “just how to ensure that student concerns convert into an ideal dean of students.”

Really? That seems fairly easy: Just find a candidate who agrees with, and will give you, everything you demand. Isn’t that the way it works today with left-wing university student organizations?

Read the full article.

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If you want to peruse any records associated with your admission to Columbia University, you’ll be quite limited in what you receive.

What Columbia junior Frederic Enea got back when he made a request to do just that included his original college application and an email sent to the school by his high school guidance counselor, but “any documents created or comments made by Columbia admissions officers were missing from his file.”

This is policy, it seems.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio said that in the admissions process, admissions officers create a written assessment of the student’s application called a “reader rating sheet.” That document is shared with the admissions committee, which may add comments.

“We have a document retention policy here at Columbia that has been in place for a little while,” Marinaccio said. “And part of that document retention policy is that we do delete, we remove those reader rating sheets before a student matriculates.”

According to Marinaccio, those records are destroyed to provide students with a clean slate when they begin college.

“If we feel they’re going to be good fits here and they’re admissible and they make the choice to come, [their reader rating sheets] shouldn’t necessarily follow them throughout their entire career here,” Marinaccio said.

Columbia is the latest institution known to liquidate such documents.

Stanford began doing so shortly after the anonymous group Fountain Hopper “sent emails to its subscribers encouraging them to request access to their admissions records.”

Yale has eliminated such records, too.

The group Students for Fair Admissions has sent letters to all Ivy League schools but Harvard (with whom it’s currently involved in litigation) requesting they retain their admissions archives. SFA says “schools should not be able to ‘destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies,’ especially if such policies were racially discriminatory.”

Unfortunately, currently there is nothing in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that prevents universities from extinguishing student admissions forms.

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the year of student Frederic Enea, and to note that his college application and counselor email were not the exclusive contents of what he received from Admissions.

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In yet another instance of contemporary college students’ delicate feelings being bruised, some undergrads were “personally hurt” after someone (or some group) hung posters around Harvard’s campus which mocked those displayed by a new student magazine.

The online magazine Renegade launched last week to “showcase the writing and artwork of students of color.” Magazine contributors had hung posters advertising the new site which included “phrases about race and diversity, such as ‘because Mather owned slaves.’”

Soon after, an unknown entity exhibited their own posters satirizing Renegade’s message.

The Harvard Crimson reports:

The apparent parody posters, however, were black with white text and included the messages “because all straight white men are racist” and “because anyone that disagrees with me is racist.” The posters included the url of the magazine’s website and its launch date.

In her statement on behalf of Renegade, Gathright confirmed that “[a]ny other posters in Pfoho imitating the style and font of Renegade were not produced by or endorsed by Renegade.”

“These posters were put up by people outside of Renegade, presumably with the intention of mischaracterizing our mission and reducing the work we are trying to do on this campus,” [Jenny A.] Gathright’s statement said on behalf of the group.

“The production and distribution of these fake posters is an immature and unacceptable attack on students of color in Pfoho and across this campus who have come together to speak their truths,” the statement read.

Pforzheimer House Masters Anne Harrington and John R. Durant said “Whatever the intent behind these posters, their effect has been to potentially mislead our community about Renegade, and to personally hurt and undermine some members of that group who live here in Pfoho. That is absolutely unacceptable, and we intend to take those posters down immediately.”

We’ve already seen today how a screening of the most popular film of 2014 was nixed due to it making some students feel “unsafe;” at this point one wonders how colleges can even fulfill their basic mission when anyone, at any time, can gripe about battered sensibilities and immediately have it turned into a cause célèbre.

That is, if it’s the “right” cause.

Read the full article.

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The president of the group Students for Fair Admissions has sent a request to the president of Princeton, Christopher Eisgruber, asking the school to “preserve its student admission records and to restore these documents if any part had been destroyed.”

This comes on the heels of a report by the New Republic which notes that fellow Ivy League Yale Law School has deleted students’ educational records.

According to the NR, apparently there is nothing unlawful about Yale’s actions. But Edward Blum of Students for Fair Admissions says schools should not be able to “destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies,” especially if such policies were racially discriminatory.

Blum’s group has sent a similar request to all other Ivy League colleges except Harvard (as SFA is currently involved in a suit against the school).

From The Daily Princetonian:

“It should go without saying that Princeton cannot destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies and expect to withstand strict scrutiny if and when its admissions policies are challenged in court,” the [SFA] letter read, particularly for “racially discriminatory policies and procedures in administering undergraduate admissions.”

“The question of diversity is one that needs some explanation,” Blum said. “Is there some benefit in extending cosmetic diversity among the student body? I think my answer is that cosmetic diversity doesn’t mean anything, if it does, then our civil rights movement has regressed.”

Making decisions based on the color of students’ skin when they have the same socioeconomic background brings only a minute benefit to campuses, Blum said.

SFA’s suit against Harvard claims the school discriminates against Asian students in its admissions procedures.

As reported by The College Fix last November, that suit says that Harvard is “’strictly limiting’ the number of Asian-American students it admits each year and [is] ‘engaging in racial balancing year after year.’”

It also says that Harvard is “not in compliance with the new Fisher strict scrutiny requirements.”

In asking about the so-called “benefits” of diversity, Blum seems to be taking a page from the National Association of Scholars’ report on the subject from the Gratz v. Bollinger case. The NAS contends there are no measurable academic benefits to campus racial/ethnic diversity.

The SFA may face an uphill battle in obtaining any requested records. The guiding statute, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) currently “contains no guidelines for document retention or destruction,” according to the New Republic.

Read the full Daily Princetonian story.

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A swath of students at one of the nation’s most prominent universities stand accused of cheating.

At Stanford University – considered an unofficial Ivy League school on the West Coast – Provost John Etchemendy reports that “an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty [were] reported to our Office of Community Standards at the end of winter quarter.”

The winter quarter there began in early January and ended March 13.

“Among a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 percent of the students in one large introductory course,” Etchemendy stated in his memo, published Tuesday. “While OCS investigates the larger matter and students are being notified, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of our role in helping students understand the seriousness of academic dishonesty.”

Etchemendy warned technology may be at the root of some of the problems.

“At the beginning of our students’ Stanford careers, they are introduced to the Honor Code and agree to abide by it,” he stated. “But with the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognize and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others. …”

“I ask you to continue to reflect on ways to discuss the importance of academic integrity frankly and openly with our students. When collaboration in a class is encouraged, as I do in my classes, do we make certain that the parameters for collaboration are clear to the students? Do we provide guidance for the use of technology? And are students aware that we really will seek to identify and report concerns that may arise?”

It’s not unheard of for students at prominent universities to use technology to cheat.

Earlier this year, Dartmouth College charged 64 students with honor code violations following allegations of widespread cheating in a sports ethics class. In that case, the class reportedly used tech called “clickers” to engage students during class – and apparently to check for attendance – and students were pretending to be their absent peers. Last May at Barnard College, a private women’s liberal arts college in New York that’s affiliated with Columbia University, students allegedly used their smartphones to pass answers back and forth.

It’s also not unheard of for students at prominent universities to cheat without using tech. Harvard University, for example, was hit with a massive cheating scandal in 2013. In that case, dozens of student athletes collaborated on a take-home exam.

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