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Department of Education rejects Asian-American admissions discrimination complaint against Harvard

Asian-American groups that believe Harvard University is discriminating against their students in admissions got bad news from the Department of Education.

In response to their complaint with DOE’s Office for Civil Rights that Harvard is using “balancing” tests, “subjective components” and blatant stereotypes to keep Asian-American applicants to a preset limit, the office has dismissed the complaint “citing a procedural ground,” the organizing committee of the “Asian American Coalition” said in an email blast to news outlets today:

The Department of Education has clearly let Asian-American communities down. Since 2006, three Asian-American applicants have filed individual complaints regarding Ivy League Universities’ discriminatory admissions practices against Asian American applicants. However, the Department of Education has not taken any forceful action on those complaints. Two years after the filing of his administrative complaint, Michael Wang is still waiting for OCR to launch investigations against the relevant universities. In the absence of any meaningful enforcement actions, Harvard and other Ivy League universities are still violating the civil rights of Asian-American applicants on a continuous and systematic basis.

Student Michael Wang was featured at the groups’ press conference in May, and The College Fix has described his plight as well.

The organizing committee said Tuesday it hasn’t heard “any feedback” from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division about its complaint to that agency. Its members “formally request” that Attorney General Loretta Lynch assign a task force to investigate admissions discrimination across the country:

Asian-Americans are the ones who work hard and play by the rules. It is un-American to deny us the equal protection and due process afforded to all citizens of the United States of America. We will relentlessly pursue all available legal remedies from all venues, including expanding the scope of the Complaint against Harvard.

Attorney and higher-education author Steve Cohen wrote at Forbes this week that the Asian-American groups weren’t likely to succeed because their students are competing not against all students for admission, but within their own “niche” or “tag” on campus (which can include academics, “athletics, performing arts, legacies, and yes, diversity”):

Without another tag, it is within the academic niche that smart kids compete – basically against each other. That’s why the Asian American Coalition’s complaint is flawed: it assumes the Asian American kids are competing against Blacks, Hispanics and Caucasians. Without [a] special interest tag, they’re not; they’re competing against all just-smart kids; mainly each other.

Elite schools can insulate themselves from legitimate complaints by making their admissions processes more transparent, Cohen said:

Of course that might reduce the number of applicants to a college – as students self-limit their applications as they realize the very long odds they face. And reducing the number of applicants would lower the number of kids who get rejected, thus diminishing the school’s reported selectivity – and thus its U.S. News ranking.

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IMAGE: Greg Piper

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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