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Harvard Asian-American discrimination case opens with packed courtroom (nbcnews.com)
108 points by kimsk112 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



Whatever your views on affirmative action, this logic is hard to follow:

Harvard's legal team denied any discrimination in its opening statement at Boston's federal courthouse, saying race is just one factor that's considered and can only help a student's chances of getting admitted.

For institutions that have a limited number of slots available, it's impossible to say race can only help an applicant. I'm not making a value judgement here, just balancing a math equation. If we determine as a society that taking action to correct our structural biases is warranted, then own it. Not just the plus, but also the minus.


The argument must be considered within the legal context. In this lawsuit, Harvard is accused of directly discriminating against Asians, not just indirectly harming them by giving a boost to black or hispanic applicants. Under no interpretation of equal protection is that acceptable. The indirect effects of affirmative action that you point to are, by contrast, permissible under at least some formulations of equal protection.

Harvard's strategy thus, and that's what's reflected in the argument you quote, must be to (1) defeat the allegation that it is affirmatively trying to keep Asians out; (2) explain that any knock-on effects to Asians from affirmative action benefiting other groups is within the bounds of what the Supreme Court has found acceptable in cases like Bakke and Grutter.


> In this lawsuit, Harvard is accused of directly discriminating against Asians, not just indirectly harming them by giving a boost to black or hispanic applicants.

But that's the exact same thing.

If you have a system where there are 1000 slots and the 1000 applicants with the highest scores get in, and you give Asian applicants +0, white applicants +5, Hispanic applicants +10 and black applicants +20, the outcome is entirely identical to giving Asian applicants -10, white applicants -5, Hispanic applicants +0 and black applicants +10. There is no meaningful difference, the people who consequently get in are exactly the same in both cases.


Assuming scores are randomly distributed, your hypothetical gives different results if you give asians -5 than if you give black and hispanic applicants +5.

Harvard is accused of excluding more than half the asian applicants who otherwise would have made the cut. Harvard does not admit anywhere near enough disadvantaged minorities where giving those folks a boost would lead to that many asians not getting a spot.


Harvard (and other Ivies) repurposed a mechanism originally introduced by Yale to keep Jews out in the 1930s. If those Asian candidates had not been excluded using the arbitrary and capricious "personal" rating, it's mostly Caucasians who would have been displaced, not African-Americans or Hispanics.

The personal rating differs widely between the admissions committee and the the alumni volunteers (who give Asians roughly the same ratings as other groups). This happens for no other ethnic group. This is the smoking gun for racial discrimination.


Is there a source for this claim?


> Assuming scores are randomly distributed, your hypothetical gives different results if you give asians -5 than if you give black and hispanic applicants +5.

If there are only asian, black and hispanic applicants, it gives exactly the same results. When there are also white applicants, that change is equivalent to adding a -5 modifier for white applicants equal to the original -5 modifier for asian applicants. In neither case is the result a system in which race can only help you -- there are a finite number of slots.

It seems obviously wrong that if you gave +20 to white applicants it would not be a disadvantage to black, hispanic or asian applicants just because they all have the same equally-disadvantaged modifiers.


Clearly there is no system where you can admit a black or hispanic applicant, keep class size fixed, and not push out a marginal white or asian candidate. But that doesn’t mean there is no difference between “discriminating against asians” and “giving a boost to disadvantaged minorities.” In the former case, only marginal asians get pushed below the cutoff. In the latter case, mostly white candidates will get pushed out.

Especially in the latter case, the effect on asians is indirect and attenuted. For example, say Harvard would have been 60% white, 30% asian, and 10% underrepresented minority. You can double the representation of disadvantaged minorities by reducing the asian representation from 30% to about 27%. So basically the bottom 10% of asians get exluded.

What is instead being alleged here is that Harvard exluded more than half the Asians that otherwise would have been admitted.


> But that doesn’t mean there is no difference between “discriminating against asians” and “giving a boost to disadvantaged minorities.”

The only possible difference is adding white people (or some other separate group) to the "discriminating against" set. And the combination of that precedent and intersectional politics makes even those equivalent as soon as you start adding more non-asian subgroups to the set of disadvantaged minorities.

For example, the white population at Harvard is overly culturally homogeneous. It would legitimately be a significant benefit to their cultural diversity to get some more rednecks in there, using some suitably more specific definition with regard to income, hometown urbanization level, etc.

So if you want to discriminate against a specific group, easy -- just enumerate a bunch of underrepresented groups that don't include them and give them each a bonus. Any given applicant outside of the target victim group is likely to be in one of them.

> So basically the bottom 10% of asians get exluded.

That's just because you're using convenient numbers. If the merit-based numbers would have been 60% asian (e.g. because Asia has a couple billion people who would all like to go to Harvard), you do have to exclude half of them to get them down to 30%.


Oh, I see how it is. Black people we're never discriminated against in democracy, because they always had 1 vote per person. It is just that white people got an extra 0.66 every time.

I know it is hyperbole. But college admissions are zero sum games. Giving points to one person, is the same as taking those away from another.


You know black slaves couldn’t vote right.


This is extremely embarrassing for me. (my only weak excuse being I am not American)

I thought that there was a period in american history after the civil war where black people's vote counted for 3/5th of a white person.

Turns out it was how electoral votes were decided, in which only slave owner voted before the civil war.

Well, you learning something new every day. I am an idiot.


Not an idiot. "Less knowledgeable about details of how a country other than your own was governed more than a century ago" does not deserve the label "idiot".


The problem is that a lot of top-tier schools MUST maintain the veil of a deterministic selection process. If it becomes known that these schools are essentially picking names out of a hat, then they will be inundated with applications and the 'brand' will be devalued as they will be swamped with applications.

Think of it as a lottery. If the selection was actually random, what would be the price of the lotto ticket? Based on last year's acceptance rate of ~3% and the expected lifetime earnings of ~$3,000,000, then the price you should pay for that lotto ticket should be $89,800. Now, compare that to the actual price of ~$75 for an application fee. Even a flimsy application to Harvard is totally worth the money.

If Harvard were to drop the act and state that it was basically random chance to get in, then their entire school would become essentially a lotto. That would quickly devalue the enterprise, not just monetarily but also in a holistic and educational way.

Essentially, they have to at least try to CYA and make some real effort at determinism in applications or the whole thing falls apart. Unfortunately, they pissed off some pretty smart people and this legal battle threatens to lift that veil, hence the fight.


There is an element of chance in getting into any top school, but only among the applicants who meet all the other qualifications. That is, between two students with 4.0 GPA, great SAT scores, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities and community service, it's a toss up. But a student with poor grades has no chance. It doesn't matter how many times the student with bad grades sends his application, he isn't getting in just by random chance. When it comes to Harvard, I would guess that 80-90% of applicants can be dropped immediately due to grades, SAT scores or lack of activities. Out of the remaining pool, for those without extenuating circumstances such as athleticism or family connections, is where such as race and "personality" might become a factor, and who ends up getting picked has an element of randomness.


Fair! I did look only at the 'non-legacy/athletic' Harvard acceptance rates (hard to find and piece together, btw), so we're looking at a bit more apples to apples comparison, though, as you say, not totally.

Lets say that only 10% of the applicants that enter can win. If you think that you are a possible winner in terms of scores, grades, etc. then what should you pay to enter the lotto? Please correct my math if I am wrong (probability is always a mind warp). The further reduction in probability to win makes the nominal acceptance rate not 3%, but 0.3%. That means that the price of the hypothetical lotto ticket should be $8,980. You just move the decimal over.

Still, compared to the $75 application fee, this is a steal. The acceptance rate would need to be ~0.003% to get the lotto ticket price to be about what the application fee is. That means Harvard would need to be ~1000x more picky than they currently are to get the lotto priced correctly.

Harvard had ~40k applications last year. At 1:1000 odds being considered 'worthwhile' due to the hypothetical lotto ticket cost, then you should apply if you think you are better than the bottom 40 applicants. You can play with the probabilities and make up a lot of hypothetical curves yourself. Nonetheless, the math seems to indicate that the $75 application fee is really low if you think you have nearly any chance of getting in and the process has nearly any randomness to it.


> Based on last year's acceptance rate of ~3% and the expected lifetime earnings of ~$3,000,000, then the price you should pay for that lotto ticket should be $89,800.

It's not the lifetime earnings from a Harvard education that are relevant, it's the increase of lifetime earnings at Harvard relative to a school one is effectively guaranteed to get into (say your state school that uses objective criteria).

That number is pretty difficult to evaluate, but I'm confident it is well under $1M.

> . Now, compare that to the actual price of ~$75 for an application fee. Even a flimsy application to Harvard is totally worth the money.

The cost of applying to an additional college is generally in time, not money. The money is just there to discourage low-quality shotgunning.


Nit: you need to calculate the Net Present Value of that $3,000,000, as well as subtracting the cost of tuition.


True! That number is, at best, a lower bound. Interest rates will likely make it MUCH larger, even with an inflation factored in. However, I've no way to calculate that as I don't have a crystal ball.

Good catch on the tuition! I did subtract it but did not mention it as I thought it would not read as well. In the end, the price of the lotto ticket should be MUCH higher when compound interest is factored in. How much is anyone's guess.


Your reasoning depends on false assumptions. For example you assume that we are currently at the maximum number of available slots. If we aren't, then it may well be true that adding more people is possible without disadvantaging existing people.

For a concrete example, consider how Dartmouth College went about admitting women back in 1972. The campus was already full. Yet they committed to not reducing how many men were admitted, with no new construction, and without increasing class size. In short they said that the new women would come at no cost to men trying to apply, and little cost to the university itself (certainly less than the benefit of the tuition.)

They succeeded. How? They moved from a semester to a quarter system. Then arranged to have required second year courses that were only available during the summer to get rid of any stigma about "summer school". These changes let them go from the usual part time academic calendar that most schools follow to operating at capacity year round.

The result? They met their apparently impossible commitment. And the new slots opened for women indeed came at no cost to the existing population of men.


> For example you assume that we are currently at the maximum number of available slots. If we aren't, then it may well be true that adding more people is possible without disadvantaging existing people.

Yes, they could "possibly" do that, but they aren't, so why the hell is this relevant?

Harvard admitted 2,200 undergrads in 1988. In 2018 it admitted 2,000. It took me 30 seconds of googling to find this.


Slots go up and down for a variety of reasons over time. As you just demonstrated, Harvard reduced slots from 1988 to 2018. What were their motivations? What would they have done if they weren't trying to let in diversity students?

It is absolutely true that if you do something for group X, you could have done more for group Y instead with the same resources. But saying that doing something for X automatically takes away from group Y is arguing the counterfactual, "Here is what you would have done if you had not done that." But you don't actually know what they would have done. Maybe they would have reduced admissions even more than they actually did. Can you prove otherwise?

That may seem like a rhetorical question, but it is not. Discovery gives access internal communications which could make that case one way or the other. But it is a case that has to actually be made, and isn't simply a foregone conclusion.


I mean now that they expanded the enrollment every admission comes at the expense of one other. If they said “maximum 200 students over 6 foot 2” then anyone over 6 foot 2 would be disadvantaged because they would be competing for a subset of the slots.


In the long run, this is also not necessarily true.

It is generally possible to expand enrollment by paying money to construct larger dorms, open classrooms, and hire staff. Virtually no university in the country is anywhere near its theoretical physical capacity. If I give an institution a large grant earmarked for doing this to create slots for a particular minority, that institution can create those slots without changing what is available to any other minority.

Now I provided a hypothetical case of a large grant from a single individual. That's an admittedly unlikely scenario. But Harvard's affirmative action programs are one of the wonderful things that can be talked about to potential donors. How many were pushed over the edge into donating because of it? Particularly given the fact that a former minority student who went to Harvard was in the press a lot over the last decade. Being the first black President will do that.

The point remains. The fact that one group got something doesn't mean that another group had to get less.

For another area where the same type of fallacy is rampant, consider immigration. People object to immigrants because "they are taking our jobs". When in fact immigrants make a net contribution to our economy, and make a net contribution to how many jobs are available for existing workers.


This is true for say Google employees but not true for Harvard. 90% of the value of a Harvard degree is the knowledge that it is exclusive.


I'm not sure how reducing the size of units of measurements changes the overall quantities. What matters is the total class time = number of classes per semester/quarter * avg hours met per class. If you double the amount of total class time (by doubling the student body), and hold class size constant, you'll have to end up offering twice as many classes. If you don't hold those total hours constant, then you're short-changing the students somehow...and definitely short-changing the faculty by reducing their time available for research.


In the previous semester system, the campus was mostly empty during the summer.

The way that they did the quarter system reduced breaks and filled the campus year round. The result was an increased number of hours of classroom time. Yes, this was more work for the faculty. But faculty is cheaper than buildings, and the primary mission of the school is teaching.

They did not double the hours. But in the early years, they also had a pretty lopsided male/female ratio. They kept their promise.


> They succeeded. How? They moved from a semester to a quarter system.

Of course, this solves nothing. There are still a finite number of slots, the number has just changed. The question of how to allocate the slots remains, and there are still more applicants than slots.


> I'm... just balancing a math equation.

Fine, but are you sure that you are working on the proper one?

Having followed a number of these threads, I think people understand the admissions process as some simple equation where "high academic achievements" + extracurriculars entitle them to a golden ticket @ Willy Wonka U. That's just not how this game works!

I have no affiliation w/the school, but have been through the game elsewhere and done a bit of research on their (and similar institutions') process. Their addy process is complicated, but not exactly inscrutable.

As has always been the case, the school has an agenda and admits the people it thinks most likely to further it. (A number of books do a pretty good job of spelling this all out. I've mentioned at least one of them in previous posts on this topic and the search engine of one's choosing or a librarian can help the interested find the others.)

The practice(s) in question aren't even specific to "elite" schools." A few months ago I attended an event where a State U president explained why they'd ratcheted down the admits for qualified "Asian" students (who actually would pay full freight to attend). Nothing to do w/ making room for "black" or "hispanic" students. But I guarantee you that his school's rationale is the same as Harvard's, Yale's, etc...

I've pondered posting the recording of the event, but honestly, I never sense that the information would change the conversation(s) here. A lot of the comments here smack of attempts to scapegoat others and assuage bruised egos.

Facts: "Asians" get gamed. "Blacks" get gamed. "Hispanics" get gamed. Btw: people should spend a little asking themselves 'WTF do those quoted terms even mean?' Chances are that your defs aren't the same as those of the addy staff, but I digress.

Respectfully, be smart, folks. This is not an issue to be taken at face value.


So, I was just looking at available slots and how that interacts with the statement, "Being X helps you, but not being X doesn't hurt you".

That just can't be. If having a certain quality increases your chances of admission by any amount, then it's the case that lacking that quality will hurt your chances by some amount. The only way around this is if the size of the incoming class is elastic.

I don't think the admissions process is a simple equation. My "balancing" statement was referring to the size and composition of the admitted class.

Also, I need to stress that I'm not anti affirmative action. My feelings on the subject are complicated. I assure you I don't take any of this as face value, and I see legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate.


Again, not involved in the selection process but...

What if a candidate's race results in him/her being placed in a 'race' pool? At that point, one's race doesn't help or hurt.

Then once the pools are formed, one starts looking at the #s. I'd wager that lots of European(-Americans)/"Whites" apply. So that pool = competitive.

The Asian(American) pool, lower #s, but higher than the groups not yet mentioned, and thus = competitive.

Probably few "Black" applicants, same w/ "Hispanic", and since Senator Warren is a topic of conversation, absolutely the same w/ "Native Americans." (BTW, I hate using these race terms.)

Then start thinking about who did (didn't apply) and why (self-selecting). Anyway, if we assume that many of the "Asian" applicants are "model minorities" who have been driven by their parents to, well, be model, the Asian pool is going to be ultra-competitive academically. (Wish I knew how to play w/ formatting here, because I want to highlight 'academically'.) So all that happens there, is that they've gone all cut-throat on each other because they're still in the "Asian" pool. Anyway, the argument could then be made that it was simply the numbers and competitiveness of the applicants (which I believe is always stated in the ding letters) that results in getting rejects getting dinged, not their "race".

Anyway, the factors that make different candidates desirable are, as previously stated, 'complex'. But people who want to figure it out can with some digging and quite a bit of logic. These places are not bastions of altruism. They're businesses and extensions of "things". The schools admit the applicants who they think will best serve their purposes. Take a look at the range of characters who have attended their various programs.

As for Affirmative Action, again, people would be wise to do some research. Ira Katznelson has an interesting book on the development and implementation.[1] Admittedly, the title may seem inflammatory so some, but it isn't entirely wrong and was given to him by another "White" guy who's currently at a DC think tank founded by a 'Republican'. It should also be said that there are many "Black" people who would be happy to see AA done away with because it has essentially been used to benefit everyone but them, even though it was written (supposedly) exclusively to benefit African-Americans. But this would be an even longer conversation that then reaches back into how and why "Asians" came to be the "model minority", and whether or not the achievements that another poster mentioned here are actually solely their own, etc. All stuff I'm not really interested in doing here now, or have done a bit of in related past posts.

Anywho, thanks for following up, and all the best.

[1] http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/when-af...


> this logic is hard to follow:

legal logic often is. your error is in reading it out of the tight legal context/boundaries it is part of.


Unless the external system already has a negative bias against a race and you're correcting for that bias inside your own system by adding race into the equation.


I assume both of those points to be true. That the external system is negatively biased toward certain groups, and that the point of affirmative action is to counteract that harmful bias. I'll even grant that affirmative action has been somewhat successful in achieving that aim.

It's still disingenuous to argue that there is only benefit and no harm when re-balancing the scale here. Nothing irritates me more than intellectual dishonesty, and I perceive it here.


I can see an argument that correcting for bias isn't "hurting" someone that comes with a preexisting positive bias.

But if that's the argument, then you're not "helping" anyone either.

You can look at it either as removing bias so nobody is helped or hurt, or you can view it in comparison to a 'race-blind' process where it helps some and hurts others.

You can't cherry-pick half of each.


I think the issue of affirmative action really comes down to whether people think this is OK or not. The real question is, "is it more right to give privileges to the underprivileged than it is wrong to take away privileges from the privileged?". It'd be nice to just have the former without the latter, but with a limited number of "privileges" available, there just hasn't been a good solution yet (and there may not be one).


> "is it more right to give privileges to the underprivileged, or take away privileges from the privileged?"

In a world with finite resources (admission spots at Harvard) that are already utilized at their full capacity, it is not possible to have one without the other.


Harvard attracts people worldwide. Shouldn't it be a combination of race + country of origin?

Hispanics are not discriminated against in mexico, for instance.


In Mexico the discrimination is based on skin color, and is far more extreme than in the US. At the end of the day the US is one of the least racist racially heterogeneous countries.


Discrimination in the pejorative sense generally includes an aspect of intent to act in a biased manner against a group. In this case the "discrimination" is incidental to the zero-sum nature of college admissions. So it's reasonable to say you're not discriminating against Asian students even though the outcome is the same.


I don't think this passes the smell test. For example, an employer would not be discriminating if he had a policy of hiring only whites, so long as he says he only wants to help whites and harm to other races is incidental?


Your example scenario wouldn't pass the smell test because there's no non-racist reason why someone would only want to hire whites, so it's obviously a smokescreen for racist intent. In the case of college admissions, there are plausible reasons for wanting to increase the diversity of their student body.


Why should diversity of race matter? And if it does matter, shouldnt we be sending talent scouts around the world and country to find representations of unexpressed races? (Eskimos, Sherpas, gypsies, etc) if there are superior races, then it's fairly unequivocally a bigoted process no?


Harvard doesn't exist in an ivory tower. Harvard is preparing graduates to go out into America, where 30% of the population is Hispanic or black. It is a good thing for society if the future academics, politicians, and business leaders educated at Harvard reflect that community. It is also critical for the 70% of Harvard that is white and Asian to be exposed to the diversity of their country. Most of these kids come from enclaves where they may literally have never had a black or Hispanic friend until they get to college. (I grew up in that kind of area and I can't name a single black or Hispanic person I knew well enough in K-12 to remember their name). Having future politicians, judges, etc., graduate ignorant of the society they live in would be a disaster.


How are black/hispanic people different than 'us'? Aren't we just reinforcing racial stereotypes by presenting them as different? Don't we otherize 'them' when we do this?


They’re different because their lived experience is one of being black or hispanic in america rather than white. The median black household makes 1/3 less income than the median white household. Whatever social forces exist to make that true—that’s what is different. (Note that this is different than simply being a white person who grew up in a lower income household. A black person who grows up in a household making $100,000 still experiences an America where that is an exceptional income for a black household, and only a bit above average for a white household. Every black person experiences the social forces that cause that huge income gap; some are just more fortunate than others or achieve more even accounting for those forces.)

Diversity isn’t about you, it’s about how society treats the group you’re a part of. Concrete example: I’m about the least “diverse” person you could meet. I’ve had friends literally forget I’m not white (“wow we’re the only white people in this theater”). But I’m brown and my wife is white, and a majority of Americans disapporved of such marriages until 1998 (when I was 14 and had just gotten a kick-ass PC with 300 MHz Pentium II). When Trump was elected, my wife was low key making contingency plans to move to Germany. Frankly, she’s kind of a prepper anyway. And I’m not worried about Trump or Bannon. But if shit does go sideways, I doubt the jack booted thugs are going to be like “oh, you go to church and subscribe to National Review? Free to go!” Society “otherizes” people-you don’t do it by recognizing that fact.

(And genuinely, I’m not complaining. I think life here is pretty great for immigrants from Muslim countries—Americans are incredibly welcoming, much more so than the people where I’m originally from.) But at least part if my point of reference for that is how much better off we are than African Americans, who are treated like second class in their own country.


> Every black person experiences the social forces that cause that huge income gap

I doubt the extent to which that gap is caused by extant social forces. It strikes me as far more likely that the lion's share of that gap is historical; at a certain point discrimination sharply declined but by that point whites and blacks were on different tracks. There are social forces that exist which close the gap (integration, affirmative action, and a desire to reverse historical injustices); there are other forces which expand the gap (the widening wealth gap, residual discrimination), but I doubt the net of these two is a significant driver of the gap. Besides historical artifacts, I'd guess the next biggest driver of the household income gap (or perhaps the number one driver) is the fact that white households are more likely to have two parents (thereby more likely to have two incomes), which is a social force but not an external one and certainly not one that affects all blacks.

And who is to say that a black Harvard candidate even has "average black expriences" or whatever that means. It seems entirely possible that the pipeline of black Harvard students more closely resembles the pipeline of white Harvard students (in terms of life experiences) than it resembles "black America".

For all of this complexity, using skin color as a proxy for lived-experiences seems like one of the least effective, most flat-footed approaches to achieving an experientially diverse student body imaginable.


> I doubt the extent to which that gap is caused by extant social forces. It strikes me as far more likely that the lion's share of that gap is historical; at a certain point discrimination sharply declined but by that point whites and blacks were on different tracks.

I don't buy that speculation. Until 1998 (the year Google was founded), a majority of Americans disapproved of interracial marriages. If you think they were like "yeah, blacks marrying whites gives me the heebie-jeebies" but were nonetheless free of discriminatory mentalities when it came to hiring, promotions, etc., I don't know what to tell you.

> I'd guess the next biggest driver of the household income gap (or perhaps the number one driver) is the fact that white households are more likely to have two parents (thereby more likely to have two incomes), which is a social force but not an external one and certainly not one that affects all blacks.

External forces have impacts on marriage rates: people are more likely to put off marriage if they are financially insecure, incarceration breaks up marriages, etc. Unless you're positing that black people just want to be married less than white people (which is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof), the cause must be external.

> skin color as a proxy for lived-experiences

Skin color is not a "proxy" for lived experience. It's a determinant of lived experience in a country that treats you differently based on your skin color, independently of your socioeconomic status.


> I don't buy that speculation. Until 1998 (the year Google was founded), a majority of Americans disapproved of interracial marriages. If you think they were like "yeah, blacks marrying whites gives me the heebie-jeebies" but were nonetheless free of discriminatory mentalities when it came to hiring, promotions, etc., I don't know what to tell you.

I was quite clear that I don't believe discriminatory mentalities disappeared, but if you think that discriminatory hiring practices _didn't drop precipitously_ in the '60s-80s, I don't know what to tell _you_.

Anyway, I don't know where you're getting that 1998 figure, but Gallup[0] says the last time a majority of Americans disapproved of interracial marriages was 1978 (two decades earlier than your citation) and more Americans approved than disapproved sometime around 1988 (Pew also agrees with this figure [1][2]) (note that there are 3 categories--approve, disapprove, and no opinion).

> External forces have impacts on marriage rates: people are more likely to put off marriage if they are financially insecure, incarceration breaks up marriages, etc. Unless you're positing that black people just want to be married less than white people (which is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof), the cause must be external.

First of all, being financially insecure isn't an external force, it's a state--specifically it's the state we're trying to approximate. So if you're going to justify household incomes as an indicator of financial security, then it doesn't make sense to argue that it depends on financial security. It's simply a bad metric and you should find another one to argue your case.

> Skin color is not a "proxy" for lived experience. It's a determinant of lived experience in a country that treats you differently based on your skin color, independently of your socioeconomic status.

I'm sure it's a determinant for some kinds of experiences, but that doesn't tell us

1) how well race predicts those experiences

2) what percentage of total human experiences are predicted by race

3) how significant these experiences are compared to other kinds of human experiences (for example, do you really want to argue that Asian Americans whose ancestors have lived in the U.S. for 8 generations have more in common with first generation Asian Americans than with 8th generation white or black Americans?)

4) whether the predictive power holds true as true for minority Harvard candidates as it does for minority Americans generally

So I say again, the notion that racial diversity will produce a meaningful diversity of experiences for Harvard's student body is _at best_ an extraordinary claim that requires extroardinary proof.

[0]: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Public_o...

[1]: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/16/chapter-4-public-a...

[2]: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/20...


Are you asking about diversity of race only? Or diversity in general? The argument is that a more diverse student body creates a better educational environment for everyone - it broadens the experience. In addition to your academic studies, you learn about interacting with people who are different from you. People who think differently, reach different conclusions, even when confronted with the same data.

Racial diversity is only part of the equation. You also want gender diversity and class/income diversity - any of the major factors that shape how we view the world.


It depends on whose perspective you're taking. For example, diversity matters because a college like Harvard is attempting to prepare its student body to be leaders of society. Being in a diverse environment that more closely mirrors society plausibly is more conducive to leadership growth than being in a homogeneous environment.


Which society? Because last I checked, just China and India made up half the world, and Harvard wanted to produce global leaders or whatever they're calling it these days.


The U.S. society, obviously. The prestige of Harvard is derived from its reputation as being the institution that forges American business and political leaders.


As an Asian American I hate how we are “white” or “nonwhite” situationally, to our maximum disadvantage. We’re nonwhite so we get racist jokes in middle school and don’t get cast as leading actors. But we’re white enough to keep out of Harvard and for us to count as “whites and Asians” for tech company hiring.

WTF are “Whites and Asians?” Whites own America, good and bad. They wrote the Constitution and they wrote the Three Fifths Compromise. They created the racial oppression system that Asians fought their way out of. And now because we’re successful we’re just bucketed in with them when convenient to anyone but us.


Do you think affirmative action is something like pay back or reparations for all the stuff people who were white did?

AA is supposed to be about raising groups who have been systemically disadvantaged to raise them to a fair playing field. This isn't supposed to be everybody except whites get help. Its supposed to be help for those whose racial identity is the reason why they are doing so poorly. Asian Americans are doing well in the U.S. [1].

The only way you can sell AA is if you say its to help people by race. Its not to sell it as a program to disadvantage whites...

The whole issue is that AA for race really generalizes advantages and disadvantages for a race and trades advancement of the race in exchange for some merit and fair consideration for the individual. Maybe there is a balance, maybe its gone to far, maybe it hasnt gone far enough. But the point is that it pisses people off because they are no longer treated like an individual and a person unfairly carries the history of people who had the same skin color as themselves.

If a white person struggles to get somewhere they can now blame AA. If a black person gets in they can have an internal struggle wondering if they really earned it, as well as the judgment that they might've only made it due to their race.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_U...


Just to be clear, Asians are doing well despite their racial identity. Given an actually fair playing field, Asians would have dominated as the Jews did and do.


I understand, but to be clear, AA is not about undoing all injustice. Its about treating everybody fairly but accounting for people who are dug in at 0. Making it from the projects is really different than making it from a suburb. If asians are in the suburbs along with the whites, equal treatment is exactly fair.

The point is that we need to move on. AA makes it so people who have fallen far behind have a chance to catch up.


There are plenty of Asian majority countries where Asians have a fair (or even unfair in their favor, relative to their country's minorities) playing field. I assume you expect those countries to dominate the world in future?


No, or rather, not necessarily. Asians in the US are a very different group from Asians in Asia. Recent immigrants are heavily overrepresented, and I believe that the difficulty of immigrating to the US from most Asian countries selects for fairly capable people.

That being said, Asia does account for a ridiculous proportion of the world's population, so it probably wouldn't be a bad bet to bet on an Asian country becoming the next dominant superpower. You know, on purely general principles.


> the Three Fifths Compromise

Since this is one of my common beefs...

The compromise was written at the behest of the Northern, non-slave states. The Southern slave-holding states would have been perfectly fine with five-fifths representation for each slave. Further, the point of the compromise was to limit the Congressional power of the Southern slave-holding states and was not intended as a value judgement as to the worth of slaves.


The compromise was that the Northern states gave southern blacks any representation. The correct value was actually 0/5ths for slaves, not 3/5ths or 5/5ths. Southerners wanted it both ways in that they could justify slavery because blacks were property - more akin to a beast of burden than a farmhand - and not humans with inalienable rights, but when it came to the census, they wanted blacks to be counted as humans, even though they could not vote and had no representation in both the state and federal legal system.


> even though they could not vote and had no representation in both the state and federal legal system.

That wasn't actually always true. In many places there were no race requirements for suffrage and if you were a "free negro" who met the other then-qualifications (male, land owner, etc.) then you could vote. Of course, hardly any black men of the time did, not least because they didn't even have citizenship.

This is how we, unlike most other countries, ended up with birthright citizenship after the civil war. It was another compromise. The former slaves don't get citizenship but their children do.

And the issue with counting non-citizens is still true today -- the census still counts non-citizens and federal representation is apportioned based on the census, so the states with large non-citizen populations get representation disproportionate to their number of eligible voters.


> In many places there were no race requirements for suffrage and if you were a "free negro" who met the other then-qualifications (male, land owner, etc.) then you could vote

Assuming the local official followed the law as written (hint: they didn't). Much like they would have for most of the post-Civil War, pre-Civil Rights Act era, they would have simply come up with an excuse not to let the rare free blacks who met the legal qualifications vote.


Yeah, I know that. I’m Asian, remember :)


That's basically any successful minority in any country ever until time does its work. For example, it wasn't until recently that open discrimination toward Jewish people was accepted at certain prestigious universities.

I don't like the label "asian" and "white", they make very complex mosaic look like monoliths.

The US Census Bureau's labels (White Caucasian, Jewish, Hispanic, etc.) is singular in that its the stupidest and most harmful nomenclature ever created, even contextualized with US history.

It has introduced conceptual confusion at every level and is all the more devastating as it is the standard mental model people use to reason about these issues.

It is setting back the US by at least a few decades, the time people realize its inaccurate, and discard it as what it is: trash.


Because Jewish people are over represented in many aspects of the US, finance, media, universities. Didn't someone say here that they make up 20% of Harvard? What's their overall population in America, 1%?

They are conveniently white/white-passing and such can take advantage of that.


Yes, because WASPs clearly think of someone named Aaron Shapiro as one of their own. C'mon.

There has been a historical bias against anyone who is not WASP and this bias subsist to this day. And that's not restricted to jewish people or asians.

I have seen lots of disdain for some of my french coworkers despite their talent and value-add and overheard "banter" (behind their backs, mind you) that would have been unacceptable for any other minority.

So, as you see. This is not a matter of white/not-white/white-passing. It's clearly an issue with the cultural identity of the majority-minority of this country and multiple thick layers of biases that need to be scraped.


You could argue that the Holocaust killed off a lot of the less successful Jews (the ones too poor or unskilled to leave areas occupied by Nazi Germany).

If you killed off the least successful 50% of white Americans, then white attendance at Harvard (presumably unaffected) would go up relative to the (now halved) white proportion of America.


> "race is just one factor that's considered and can only help a student's chances of getting admitted."

If this is their best argument, they'll fail miserably. You're not considered in a vacuum. Your resume is considered relative to the others that have applied. If most other applicants receive +10 bonus points and you don't -- that hurts you. It's not rocket science.

> Yet Mortara argued Monday the lawsuit is not a broader attack on affirmative action, saying Harvard has simply gone too far in its "zeal" to consider race. "Diversity and its benefits are not on trial here.

I don't see how they can argue this with a straight face. It's all the same thing just called by different names.


> I don't see how they can argue this with a straight face. It's all the same thing just called by different names.

I think you can argue there is a difference between affirmative action (proactively seeking candidates for racial diversity) and penalizing based on race to keep the number of a particular race down.


But admissions to Harvard is a zero sum game. It’s not like they say before admissions starts “everyone with 210 points gets in” and then gives 80 points for SAT score, 80 points for GPA, and 25 points for race. It’s like an Olympic race where they let the Athlete from the host country start the race 10 seconds early. If the other athletes complained I don’t think “we’re not hurting you, we’re just helping them” would be very satisfying.


Say there are 100 people racing, and the top 25% get to advance to the next round. "We're hurting you" is that you have to start 10 seconds late. "We're helping them" is that a few people get to start 10 seconds early. Would you assert that the two scenarios are equivalent?


Yes, they’re entirely equivalent. I can win the race by 9 seconds and still lose.


In this hypothetical, 25% of people advance. If you have to start 10 seconds late, you almost certainly finish outside the top 25% no matter where you were going to finish otherwise. But if a few people get to start 10 seconds early, you'll probably still finish in the top 25% unless you were going to be marginal to begin with.


> unless you were going to be marginal to begin with.

Which is a nice way of saying unless you would have advanced and now you're not.

Clearly in this scenario helping a few is the same as hurting a few. Helping many is the same as hurting many.

Harvard has ~2000 slots a year. How many of those would be asian if not for this discrimination?


It's alleged that it would be 40% as opposed to the 20% it is now.


What does it matter how marginal I was? Either I earned it, or I didn’t. Does a team only get a Super Bowl parade if they win by 14 points?


fipple, you need to look more carefully at the math for rayiner's hypothetical. When the top 25% advance, there is a difference between 10% of competitors being given an unfair advantage over you, and 100% of competitors being given that advantage.

This isn't to say that the former scenario is acceptable; I certainly do not appreciate the typical level of intellectual dishonesty surrounding endorsement of the status quo. But it is important to be precise regarding what we are talking about. You are making a mathematical error, and you need to correct it before this discussion can usefully proceed.


Yes, it was a very good point but I wasn’t allowed to reply to his/her post.


> proactively seeking candidates for racial diversity

What is the difference in practice? If we proactively filled all of Harvard with disadvantaged races and didn't accept any asians, would you still be saying the same thing? Proactively helping one race is the same as hurting others.

Maybe there would be a difference if Harvard was helping disadvantaged races only at childrearing-time instead of at application-time (the definition of pro-active), but they're not.


There are only so many slots. If you’re giving extra points to greens that’s equivalent to taking them from purples if there are a fixed number of places to compete for.


Reminder: Harvard consistently rates Asian students lower on personality traits like "likability", which is a part of their admissions process: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/us/harvard-asian-enrollme...


"We're not racist, we just happen to not like Asians."


Despite alumni interviewers rating Asian students about the same as others, I might add.


Well presumably if they are alumni then they were given a high enough rating to get in so the numbers are skewed. Unless this is alumni from other universities.


No, Harvard alumni interviewing candidates is part of the admissions process. The alumni rated Asian candidates as being just as personable as candidates from other races. Since the alumni are volunteers from all walks of life (other than the obvious fact that they all went to Harvard), the idea is that they aren't affected by whatever is going on inside the admissions office, and the disparity between alumni ratings and admissions office ratings is evidence of systemic bias against Asians.


That's why I believe they introduced measuring traits for "well-roundedness". Asian/Asian-Americans were doing better than whites at their own game (tests) and as such started testing for skills that can't be easily measured and are heavily biased.

Suddenly someone with high scores and other non-technical skills can still be considered not well-rounded.


This policy was instituted in 1926 to discriminate against another minority entirely.

You should stop framing this in terms of White vs. X. This is misguided and largely a nomenclature issue which is now perverting the way people reason about these things.

What you perceive as "white" does not superpose perfectly with what the actual in-group perceives as white. It's a combination of ethnicity, cultural background, and social standing. The right combination opens a lot of door. Otherwise you are treated like a plebeian, with various degrees of aggressiveness.

If you want to see power, take a look at Harvard's rowing club and discreet but powerful positions of power their alumnis hold.

FAANG are the public facing massive corporations which everyone knows about. There are many more companies with clout and cash that no one talks about and who have their monopolies unchallenged, their position enshrined by regulation, and which are cash machines funding a particular establishment that no one ever talks about.


If Harvard is trying to admit the top students academically, they must be race blind. If they are trying to admit the future powerful citizens of America, they can use a metric that accounts for that. For example, Beyoncé is more powerful than me, even though I probably had better grades. It wouldn’t be outrageous for Harvard to say we want Beyoncé as an alumnus more than me. But be honest about what you’re doing then, and don’t call your institution an academic one.


This really gets to the heart of the matter. Harvard wants to increase its prestige, and it does so by having future CEOs, Senators, and Presidents go to Harvard. But the distribution of potential leaders of society is not equal to the distribution of top GPA/test scores. Should Obama have been passed over from Harvard Law for someone with a higher GPA (or GW Bush for Yale)? If you want to argue that Harvard should only use the grades/test scores metric, you have to argue for it, as it is not self-evident.


In what world is the goal of an academic institution to produce students with good grades and not to produce students who are capable of accomplishing things?


Just because an institution is an academic institution doesn’t mean they’re only trying to train people to be academics.


Wow, this is a long time coming. Good luck to the Asian-American community.


Some (probably lots of) asian-americans don't support this lawsuit, because they see it as a veiled attack on affirmative action: https://abovethelaw.com/2018/10/first-edward-blum-came-for-t....


The vast majority of Asian Americans support the lawsuit. A small contingent of progressive Asian American activists (many of whom happened to luck out and make it to elite universities, thus allowing them to shut the door behind them) oppose the lawsuit and claim to represent Asian Americans at large.


My understanding is that many Asian Americans are turned away from AA programs because they aren't "traditionally" disenfranchised minorities.


I'm curious as to why any asian american would support affirmative action.


My personal view (as an asian american) is that the United States owes african americans a debt that overrides the goal of perfect fairness to everyone else. Almost all asians came here (or their parents came here) voluntarily. The ancestors of african americans, by contrast, were brought here in slavery and then legally discriminated against until very recently (if that discrimination is even over). The United States has an obligation to fix the damage it caused by that.

I view it not as "discrimination against asians" but a tax to pay for debts long ago incurred. My family came here long after the decision to go to World War II, but I'm obligated to pay taxes to pay off the debt we still carry from that war. Likewise, the United States and the state governments enslaved and discriminated against african americans long before I got here. But those governments still exist as going concerns, are obligated to fix the damage they did, and as someone coming along after the fact benefiting from living in the U.S., I have to pay my fair share of the "tax" needed to fix that damage.


Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. But what about discriminating against asians to help hispanic numbers? Hispanics are also recent arrivals to the USA and were not historically enslaved.

And perhaps even more biting: what about discriminating against asians to help white numbers?


The last would definitely be a slam dunk case of discrimination. I guess they are not admitting to discriminating against asians (in favor of whites). How true is that? I dunno.


I don't have any opposition to it, other than that I think African Americans are uniquely situated because of the history.


How about the damage caused by the colonial oppression, the Opium Wars, Vietnam, and all the knock-on effects from those actions? Maybe we call it quits and start level again?


No. India was a colony, and the British exploited India’s resources, but they also built infrastructure and institutions and preserved most of the social structure. Indians were never property of British people. Families weren’t separate with children being bought and sold to other plantations. Indians’ social structure wasn’t completely broken down in order to turn them into a slave class.

More important: what the British did to India isn’t America’s problem. Blacks in America continue to suffer huge disparities compared to whites. They live like second class citizens in their own country. That’s our burden to fix. We can’t absolve ourselves of the responsibility by saying “it was before my time.” Our Congress is the same Congress that passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Our Supreme Court is the same Supreme Court that upheld Plessy and Dredd Scott. Especially asians, most of whom came here voluntarily, and who knew the obligations that had been incurred by the society they were trying to be a part of. We can’t avail ourselves of the benefits of being American but then say we are unwilling to help pay down our societal debt because it’s not our problem.


Blacks in the U.S. have a higher median income then blacks anywhere else in the world. They are literally at the top, you cant get a higher ranking then number 1. If the us government is oppressing this group then they are doing a pretty poor job at it.


Hi, I'm Asian and never got into an elite institution like Harvard, but did get into UNC Chapel Hill. I'm thoroughly mediocre overall and was when I applied.

I oppose this lawsuit because I see no evidence that this is anything but sour grapes on the part of the aggrieved parties, all of whom seem to have gone to other elite institutions that I could have never gotten into (like Duke). I am fundamentally opposed to the implication of this suit - the acknowledgement that literally any outcome outside of getting into Harvard is a net detriment to life outcomes significant enough to warrant a lawsuit. I believe this to be un-American and incredibly elitist. In addition, the DOJ's tacit support for it appears to be nothing more than a cynical ploy to drive a wedge between Asian-Americans and other people of color. I've seen some analysts claim that this could convince Asian-Americans to start voting Republican again - something I find amusing, because this country and community have significantly larger problems than pearl-clutching about whether one gets into elite school A or elite school B.


So because these candidates were more competitive college applicants than you, there's no clear and blatant systematic bias? Harvard and Duke are both more selective/prestigious than UNC, therefore they are equally selective/prestigious? The reason Harvard is at the center of this is, any discrimination at the most selective institution will filter down because the overqualified rejects from the top tier will fill up the second tier, and the overqualified rejects from the second tier will start filling up the third tier, and so on...Also, as lawsuits go, if they get a decision against Harvard, you can be sure Yale and Princeton and Stanford will take a long hard look at their admission policies. Or more suits will be filed until there is a systemic change.


> there's no clear and blatant systematic bias?

I haven't been convinced of it, no.

> Harvard and Duke are both more selective/prestigious than UNC, therefore they are equally selective/prestigious?

No, but some 86% of applicants can't get into Duke and 95% can't get into Harvard so I'm not sure if that extra 9% is really worth complaining over. It reeks of incredible elitism.

For the record, Yale and Stanford are in the same tier. Most of the ordinary folks in this country don't go to competitive schools at all, if they go.


I hate saying things like this because it's very meaningless, but this time it's a bit too much. UNC Chapel Hill is absolutely an elite institution. It's one of the most prestigious public schools in the world (recall recent Nobels) and has a very low acceptance rate. Beliefs like this mostly come from the absurd favoritism of the society to private schools. Most people I met would consider a private school roughly as prestigious as UNC "elite" and not consider UNC "elite".


I didn't actually end up going there, I went to a school even less prestigious and less notable (our only Nobel is Rajendra Pauchauri) because I initially intended on majoring in something not available there (I later changed my mind). That was probably a mistake, but whatever.

In addition, I'm in-state. For the year before me I believe in-state acceptance was in the 40-50% range, which isn't very competitive IMO.


Again this conversation is absurd but for what it's worth, acceptance rates are very bad way to compare selectivity (which is essentially what I meant but phrased wrong). Berkeley and UCLA have around ~8% - ~13% acceptance rate but Berkeley receives almost half what UCLA receives because Berkeley is much more selective than UCLA so some people don't even apply to Berkeley and apply to other UCs (we can see this if we compare student profile). If you look at sheer numbers Berkeley's 10% acceptance rate seems noob compared to a tiny liberal arts college with 5% acceptance rate but Berkeley is absolutely one of the most prestigious universities in the world, it just accepts hoards of students all over the world. So, it's not that easy.


> I am fundamentally opposed to the implication of this suit - the acknowledgement that literally any outcome outside of getting into Harvard is a net detriment to life outcomes significant enough to warrant a lawsuit.

I don't think that's the implication. I think the point of the plaintiffs is that the admissions process is racist against asians of equal capability to other races. Now no doubt some of them might be motivated by a personal vendetta against Harvard for being rejected, but I don't think they're asking to be personally admitted to Harvard if their case succeeds.

I'm not american but this is literally institutional racism, and it's bizarre to me how people, and especially asians, seem okay with it.


Multiple entries in that article link to the same book which came out within the past two weeks saying that the myth "that Asian-Americans need higher test scores than non-Asian-Americans to get into a highly selective college" is debunked.

Has anyone actually read the book? Is the topic settled?


I have not read the book, but on general principle I doubt that the topic is settled.

If you look at https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2017/08/07... you can see that indeed Asian Americans do not get in at the rates that their test scores would suggest that they should. That is evidence of bias against them. However it is hard to prove because it is hard to control for all of the other factors that colleges look for.

That and other things that I am aware of strongly suggest that Asians are somewhat discriminated against. Given that, I would be more inclined to suspect bias is more important than fact in anything that claims to be a debunking.


This article fails to mention that Harvard (and other elite schools) used to apply similar subjective criteria to limit the number of Jews they admitted.


Yes, I have been following this and thinking the same thing. Not sure why this is not relevant as it obviously must have set precedent in some way.


Would appreciate any pointers from people who know more about law than I do (which is practically nothing) on what arguments Harvard made back in the day about their discrimination against Jews. Are they structurally similar to the arguments they are making against Asians now? At some point did Harvard acknowledge that the policies that discriminated Jews were a mistake?


The argument at the time was that Jews were too focused on academics and didn't play enough sports. Eventually Harvard did acknowledge that religious discrimination was a mistake. (To be clear I don't support discrimination, just supplying some context.)

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/harvard-s-jewish-proble...


Harvard was founded and held by WASPs in the 17th century, was conquered by Jews in the late 20th century, and will be conquered by Asians in the coming decades. There is the interesting question of whether the cultural relevancy of an Asian Harvard will drift into something like Caltech but you can't stop globalism!


If Jews are viewed as a distinct group, white representation would be lower while Jewish representation is higher.


I don't see how anyone could be for race based discrimination.

If we are going to make up for systematic oppression of the past, why not do so far earlier in a person's life instead of waiting til college?

I think it's fairer to help minority mothers with day care help or schooling assistance for their children and even out the playing field there rather than discriminating at the college level to even the playing field.

I just don't see how more discrimination is the answer to past discrimination against minorities. Especially when it's discrimination against one set of minorities to make up for the discrimination against another set of minorities in the past.


It isn't like Harvard is choosing between the two options of "nationwide welfare program" or "control admissions" and exclusively choosing the latter, nor are welfare advocates saying "well, Harvard has that admissions program we don't need improved welfare anymore".


A few years ago an Indian guy changed his name to get admitted into medical school. I wonder how it would play out if more Asians do this. They should try harder messing with the system, forcing schools to do DNA tests, etc.


"Vijay Chokal-Ingam" faked being black to get into med school (he himself came out and explained why he did what he did. Just google his name).

That's how bad it is in the US for Asian kids at every level after High School.

Another aspect of what ends up happening due to this is that Asian grads from such universities are always considered to be top notch by default, because it is assumed that they had to be more competitive to get through the sieve.


An Indian college friend of mine did this too, changing his name from Ankit to Andy (and simplifying the spelling of his last name) before applying to grad schools.


> "Race alone is never the reason a student is granted admission," Lee said. "And race is never the reason a student is denied."

> He downplayed the influence of any single numerical rating, saying the final decision comes down to a 40-person committee that spends weeks reviewing and discussing applications.

I love how Harvard's defense is "We aren't 100% racist, we're only a little racist, but for good!"


That's what affirmative action basically is. The ideology behind it is that we, as a society, need to compensate for systemic racism that existed in the past. I'm also against the idea of discriminating based on skin color, regardless of intention, but it is what it is.


If Harvard was scoring Asians no worse than Whites, there would be less outrage.

Instead, data is suggesting that Harvard actively is discriminating against Asians in favor of all other groups (including Whites). That is absolutely not justified by "systemic racism" of the past (esp. given that Asians also suffered systematic racism in the past)


> systemic racism that existed in the past

... and in the present.


Your problem appears to be holistic admission in general. And to that, ok, I do agree and it's not consistent or deterministic by design. But the idea that people should get so mad about this that they sue and raise a fit is silly.

There are two competing implicit narratives here -

1) The school you go to doesn't matter and you should do the best where-ever you are (I personally heard this quite a bit).

2) You will be irreparably harmed for life because you didn't get into School N instead of School N - 1.

Which is it?


The problem isn't holistic admission, the problem is that Harvard is using the cover of holistic admission to black-box the admissions process so nobody can prove what shenanigans are actually going on. That only works until somebody does a simple regression, but most people don't understand regressions or any sort of statistics at all.


It's infuriating because it's racist, not because it's any one school in particular


I doubt that Harvard would be excited about arguing in favor of 1).


Wait, where are those narratives coming from the same person?


Sometimes, yes! But I've heard both repeatedly! It is absolutely maddening.


People are also taking advantage of affirmative action by claiming to be part of a race if they had one relative from that race 10 generations back i.e. Elizabeth Warren. I feel you should have at least 50% of that DNA in order to be able to claim some racially disadvantaged status.


Elizabeth Warren did not receive affirmative action. She didn't even tell anyone about her distant Native American ancestry until after she was a tenured professor.


Students for Fair Admissions is a front organization designed to find cases that will hopefully reach the Supreme Court and make affirmative action unconstitutional. Their president, Edward Blum, has stated so on multiple occasions.

The Asian community has a legitimate beef if some of the details regarding Harvard's admissions are true. I would hope that the judge is taking this case with full context and knowledge of SFFA's role, and if they choose to rule in the favor of SFFA, do so narrowly.

American's need to become more aware of organizations like SFFA and The Federalist Society and how they are shaping the court. If you thought the courts were supposed to be a neutral arbiter of law you thought wrong due to how these organizations operate. When you can easily tell how the Supreme Court will vote on major issues simply by knowing the party of the president that appointmented them something is wrong.


It makes we wonder what the emergence of an all Asian Ivy league level school would look like, with an endowment to match, similar to historically black colleges. A private college technically can do what they want.

Either you base admission on merit, or you base it on racial % of the US population, and then take from the top of each racial bucket, splitting it 50/50 for men and women. There are good arguments for both cases, but you can't really have a system that tries to be both without having massive exceptions.

If you read Amy Chaus book The Triple Package, its not just Asians that do historically better than native Whites in the US, but also Indians, Cuban exiles, Jews, Nigerians, Lebanese, Iranians and even Mormons. Its often assumed that a merit system favors only Asians and Whites, predominantly Jews, when this is not entirely true.


Indians, Lebanese and Iranians are Asians.


Many systems set up to please underrepresented groups such as African Americans and Latinos indirectly hurts Asians. One of the reasons is that Asians are never as vocal and numerous as the other 2 groups. However, the biggest reason is that the white will not set up a system to hurt whites. Only take away from one minority to give to other minority; then just sit there watch 2 minority group fight.


Is Harvard not a private school? Discussions of affirmative action/race aside, if they're a private institution, can't they do pretty much whatever they want? By what basis does anyone have authority/standing to sue?

A private club can refuse admittance for any reason, or for no reason. Is this not the case for private schools?


Harvard wants to pick the best students. If they do not select the best student they will lose their prestige/position over time. They seem to have a strong incentive. -my 2 cents


Can someone knowledgeable answer something: if the judgement goes against Harvard, would this apply to faculty and staff hires, too?

I recall in grad school being in an econ


No, faculty/staff are covered under equal protection employment law.


How do we talk about this issue (and others like it)? Ignoring the politics is as useful and honest as ignoring your black eye when discussing your headache.

We all know the score: For some, it's a way to undermine affirmative action and also a way to distract from the much larger prevalence of racial discrimination against African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans - a way of implying that those issues aren't special problems. Others take the opposing side in order to push back on these issues.

Let's not pretend it is considered on its merits either here or in wider society, though most discussions try to talk as if it is. Possibly it will not be decided on its merits the politicized American judiciary: If it reaches the Supreme Court, for example, I think by only knowing the politics - and no facts or law - we could predict how several justices would vote.

I just wish we would discuss it honestly.




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