No Simple Solution to Discriminatory Admissions

Harvard+College+Freshman+Convocation+September+1%2C2015.
Harvard College Freshman Convocation September 1,2015.

Harvard College Freshman Convocation September 1,2015.

©Rick Friedman

©Rick Friedman

Harvard College Freshman Convocation September 1,2015.

Genie Lee, Lifestyle Editor

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As a senior stuck in the thick of college applications, the recent Harvard lawsuit accusing the university of discrimination against Asian American applicants captivated me. I believe that affirmative action should not be a primary method of determining acceptance.  Too many institutions are using affirmative ineffectively and unjustly.

Reading about yet another incident where a particular ethnic group is treated inequitably is depressing. Seeing students my own age and of my own ethnicity being discriminated against is devastating.

Despite America’s long history battling against racial discrimination, the evidence is clear that we are not progressing as much as we have propagandized.

But here lies the real question: Does being a minority increase or decrease your chances of getting into a university?

For every applicant, universities award “bonus points” in an attempt to admit a more diverse group of people. According to a study by Princeton University, African Americans received a 230 point bonus, Hispanics received a 185 point bonus, and Asian Americans did not receive any bonus points. In fact, they got a 50 point penalty.

A study released in 2004 by Princeton also showed that Asian American students were held to a higher standard when it came to test scores. In other words, Asian Americans have to score higher on their standardized tests just to have the same chance of admission to an elite university as an applicant of another ethnicity.

Although the evidence shows that Asian Americans were being discriminated against because they were required to pass a higher threshold for prestigious universities to consider them, there were other factors contributing to Harvard’s case in particular.

The plaintiffs in the 2018 lawsuit were able to subpoena many documents from Harvard, collecting data in an attempt to pinpoint the reason for lower admission rates for Asian Americans. What they discovered was that Asian Americans were scoring consistently lower than Caucasians on personality traits, the most subjective part of the college admissions process.

Simply put: solely based on their background information, Asian Americans were deemed to be not as appealing, personality wise, compared to Caucasians.

This was the shining piece of evidence that clearly showed the blanketed prejudice of Harvard admissions officers. What is most ridiculous, however, is that the university continues to deny this fact, even though data from Harvard itself was used to come to this conclusion.

So, how does one solve this problem of bias when it comes to college admissions? Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct solution.

Some have brought up the idea of a meritocracy, “a system where the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  In other words, make admission simply about academic achievement regardless of any other traits or background.

However, while this solution might solve the problem of racial discrimination, it raises another concern: not everyone has the opportunity to be able to pursue their passions and excel in their classes.

Therefore, solving one problem of discrimination would simply create another.

Even if race has just a marginal effect on the college admissions process, it could mean the difference between admission into a dream college and a rejection.

There isn’t a direct solution for racial discrimination. Especially with my Asian American background, it frustrates me that myself and others of my race may not be treated equally when attempting to gain admission into prestigious universities. But one thing is clear: more awareness for this growing issue is key to preventing further discrimination.

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