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Asian American Discrimination in Harvard Admissions [pdf] (duke.edu)
376 points by Reedx 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 493 comments



Not Harvard, but (being Asian American) this sort of soft characterization as being deficient in personality metrics rings true in my head.

For starters, my father in his full time government job repeatedly got "no leadership potential" reviews. Meanwhile in his part time job with the US Navy, he advanced to the level of captain and in his final act for the Navy led a team that completed its first fully digitized inventory system, saving the Navy billions of dollars, and delivered it under budget and ahead of time. (Fwiw he was non-technical, just "good at making things happen for nerds", his words not mine)

In my personal life, I've encountered several situations where people have expressed to me explicitly or implicitly they didn't consider me to be leader-worthy despite my having successfully managed small teams several times in my career.


Cultural differences are big here too.

Asian American culture leads to personalities which are not considered leadership-worthy in WASP culture. You're not alone there. The same is true for people from most cultures -- African immigrants, Eastern European immigrants, and most other types of immigrants behave in ways which are too foreign.

It's not universal -- there are individuals who manage to culturally adapt. But they're a minority, and it's an uphill battle.

Actual performance tends to be excellent, but that's not how leaders get chosen in most organizations. Leadership decisions are almost entirely about perception: Do your employees like you and relate well to you? Your superiors? That has a huge cultural component, and a lot of room for racism.


Why do you assume my dad was an immigrant. His side of the family has been in the Hawaii since the 1880s, before it even became a territory. My father was born in post WWII America to two born in America citizens.

His master chief was black, his executive officer was a woman, and his head programmer was white. He was universally loved in the Navy community, especially by his subordinates, and though he did ruffle some feathers with his superiors, I can't believe he pissed them off too much, since they even honored him with a full page cartoon of him explaining his achievement with two other O6s and an O5, and twice with the legion of merit, which you don't get (much less twice) if the admirals are displeased.


> Why do you assume my dad was an immigrant.

For whatever it's worth, I detected no assumption that your father was an immigrant in the OP. It's worth dwelling on the possibility that no such assumption is needed.


> You're not alone there. The same is true for people from most cultures -- African immigrants, Eastern European immigrants, and most other types of immigrants

Following up Asian American with a list of other immigrant groups indicates that assumption pretty strongly. If he wanted to highlight cultural differences from WASP society, he could have listed Black Americans or Southern Rednecks. It's quite clear that Blacks and Redneck society, despite being very different from WASP society, is "native" to America in a way that Asian Americans aren't in public perception.


I thought about those when writing the post. I chose not to list those simply because they made the discussion more complex, to the point where a post would have turned into an essay. I didn't want to single out Asians (or lump them together), but I also didn't want to get into that.

The two groups you list face more discrimination than most Asians precisely because of the assumption you list: they're perceived to be native, and cultural allowances aren't made, but the cultural differences are huge.

That's especially true for what you call "Southern Rednecks," of whom you will find approximately zero at e.g. elite schools, mostly due to this sort of discrimination.


Its possible that the shared values and commitment to public service inherent in choosing to serve in the military caused your father's co-workers in the military to see him more clearly and/or in a different light.

It is also possible that his leadership ability did not manifest equally in both settings, for example if he was more passionate about the military than his civilian job and/or if it was a better fit for his skill set.

Not to suggest that some institutions don't still discriminate against Asians etc, unfortunately. Hopefully things are changing for the better though.


I assure you there are lots of stupid people in the military who are racist, and "the shared values and commitment to public service" is not nearly as inherent in government as Parks and Recreation would have you believe. Remember, in his full time job he also worked for the Federal Government. In the VA, no less. You'd think that the employees of the VA would have the highest level of commitment to public service and the highest understanding of what it means to be a successful leader in the military, (and for that matter the highest amount of care for the health of veterans), but, that doesn't seem to really be the case.


How well one person fits into a team is a very "butterfly effect" thing. I've both been "the star" and the mediocre kinda struggling guy on different team.

It's called "team chemistry" not "team logic" for a reason.


Is it different in Hawaii and California and East Coast?

I am a long way from any of those places.


> Asian American culture leads to personalities which are not considered leadership-worthy in WASP culture.

On the face of it, there is no way to tell if this is the actual cause of a phenomenon or merely a rationalization for an irrational bias.

One might invoke Occam's razor at this point, and say that the simplest explanation - that it is the actual cause, not a rationalization for something else - is the most probable one, but:

"The same is true for people from most cultures -- African immigrants, Eastern European immigrants, and most other types of immigrants behave in ways which are too foreign."

- the more one advances this point, the more clearly it becomes obvious that foreign-ness is the one common factor in all the cases.

Based on your last paragraph, I think we are both making essentially the same point.


Except that this pattern doesn't hold for Indian immigrants. (The research is out there, I invite you to go find it.) So it's not fundamentally about foreignness, but rather about the uneven distribution of certain qualities amongst different population groups.

One could argue that the problem is at root with the American? Western? structural bias in favor of extroversion and assertiveness, but you need de-mystify the dynamics involved in the first place to make that case clearly.


> Except that this pattern doesn't hold for Indian immigrants.

Except that the post I am replying to is not just about Indian inmmigrants, and, as I specifically make a point of, says the same about quite a wide range of origins.

> I invite you to go find it.

If you can't be bothered to support your case, I can't be bothered to do so for you - especially as I suspect that it is beside the point.


No one wants to go on a wild-goose chase for research that you seem to think is credible but won’t even bother posting for discussion


Then don't. Are you looking for my permission? There it is, you have it.

I think you misjudge my aims in posting.


There are differences between cultural and racial bias. Namely, you can fake cultural fit.

It’s common for people to adopt a persona for climbing the corporate ladder, because it works. Looking at people from any racial or ethnic background who succeed and you find they fit the organization they climbed. Not all US companies fit the corporate MBA mold, but it’s extremely common and tends to take over most companies as they age or grow.

I am not saying that’s a good thing, but learning the rules of the game are a basic prerequisite for winning.


I suspect that the issue here is that learning the rules, or otherwise playing according to the rules, is not necessarily enough in the face of deep-seated stereotypes.


Deep seated stereotypes play a role, but there are many forces at work. Most people are going to fail either way. That’s simply an outgrowth of a pyramid with fewer openings at the top.

If 10x more people of type X than type Y play the game and people of type X make it to he top 10x more frequently then that’s in line with this model. Currently there are for example 4 black CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, which is really low.

But, if the proxy is say MBA graduates in 1990, that’s also low. Family connections further muddle the water etc. It’s clearly not a level playing field by any means.


I understand your sentiment and I’m sure you’re well meaning. But Asian Americans are one of the most diverse groups, it’s a huge part of the world and part of the problem is people assuming all Asian Americans are the same personality


I'm not assuming that. I'm assuming many people of WASP descent are put off by differences from their culture. That assumption us backed by plenty of scientific research and supported by plenty of personal observation. That's why in my post I mentioned Africa (which is as diverse as Asia) and Eastern Europe (which is the same skin color).

That's discriminatory, but different in how it plays out than discrimination on skin color.

If I receive a resume from an equally-qualified Nigerian and an equally-qualified American of Anglo-Saxon descent, unless the Nigerian was able to seamlessly code-shift, the language WILL be subtly or significantly different. Unless you make explicit cultural allowances for that, that WILL bias me towards the individual of Anglo-Saxon descent.


Isn’t your observation to be expected? I’d say this is would be true even across countries such as the UK and Australia with a shares language, never mind most of the rest of the world.

In general, even within groups you’ll have bias whether it’s conscious or not, irrespective of race. An American-born person of Indian decent would potentially be more likely to get hired than a white Australian.

I think you can explain a lot of this without dancing around racism without saying it. Do you not think the same thing happens in every other country on the planet? If we think through what you’ve written here, even differences between groups of WASP will prove out a bias. Maybe it’s education level, or someone uses a word that my favorite football coach uses (and they like it too since we are from a more similar background) etc.

Was your expectation that this doesn’t play out elsewhere? Do you think the same thing wouldn’t happen in Tokyo, or Toronto?


It is expected, and it is almost everywhere. If I go to China, Korea, or Japan, I'll be really disadvantaged because of my cultural background, much more so than in America. In India and some parts of Africa, I'll actually have an advantage because of the biases there.

But that doesn't mean it's good. OP ought to be able to find a job based on their skills, not based on their culture. And people should have enough cross-cultural competency to be able to adapt to a manager or employee with a subtly or significantly different cultural background.

It's especially not good in America, which has an identity as a melding pot, and where most people are either immigrant or of immigrant descent of some sort (except those whose ancestors crossed over the Bering Straight).

As a footnote, every single one of my comments in this thread was "cancelled" (many downvotes, without any constructive comments, most likely by someone with multiple accounts or with bots). The ones which were +4 are now down too. I don't really care about up/down-votes, but it's a growing problem on HN. At some point, it will become reddit.


I'm not sure if it isn't good. Of course discrimination based on race/sex/creed/etc. is going bad in almost all cases, but I think at some level you need people who have some measure of cultural similarity, don't you? And by selecting any amount of cultural similarity you're admitting an inherent bias.

At what point do you get diminishing returns on focusing on reducing bias, or at one point do you actually make things worse for the sake of eliminating bias? I'd argue if you eliminate all bias, you'd eliminate any variation in culture.

I agree with you that you should be able to find a job based on your skills, and others should be able to tolerate your culture, but I think a lot of the action around this is extremely superficial and not well-thought. Believe it or not, I actually find that I have less cultural navigation working with Indian engineers than I do with religious white people in the United States. I don't think this whole thing is so focused on WASP - vs others, and spending so much time on it is quite shallow. People who focus on that so much I think, largely, haven't been exposed to much of the world.

I also think that focusing on the United States as a nation of immigrants is kind of weak. In a global society I think we need to apply these standards everywhere. Brasil is a nation of immigrants, too. Should only the United States focus on reducing bias because it's "a nation of immigrants"? Why shouldn't Japan focus on this? Russia? Ethiopia?

For the record, I'm responding you with some of my own real thoughts here and not trying to "cancel" anything. I don't believe in that. :)


I don't think people need to have cultural similarity for a well-functioning business. I think the diversity really helps businesses be successful for several reasons:

1) Diverse people come at problems from different directions. That's not just cultural diversity, but all kinds of diversity. The best-run businesses have cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, cross-cutting teams.

2) Diverse teams understand markets better. Most Silicon Valley startups are focused on the same demographics: Wealthy, liberal Americans. A lot of other groups, both within the US and outside, form huge markets which are underserved, and business opportunities.

I've been in cross-cultural organizations, and it can work really well.

And yes, just as with your experience, I do find a lot less cultural adaptation working with immigrants (not just "Indian engineers") than with locals from cultures other than my own (not just "religious white people in the United States"). Immigrants are in a different culture, and already making cultural adaptations. They overlook a lot of irrelevant stuff, and when they do react, it's for things less subtle.

Working across cultures when people look like you, and expect you to behave like them is a lot harder. And in many cases, the differences are subtle but important; a word takes on a slightly different meaning, or body languages is slightly different. That's actually a lot harder than when both people know it's a different culture.

The comments about cancelling weren't about you. Someone else went in and all my posts were marked with a huge number of downvotes. That's either someone with multiple accounts or a bot. Not sure which. They seem to be back to normal now, so perhaps other people upvoted, or perhaps a mod fixed it.

Regarding other countries, I think it's a bit sad when local cultures get stamped out or Westernized. I don't mind Japan being for Japanese, or Ethiopia Ethiopian. I appreciate that kind of diversity too (not everywhere needs to be tolerant). The US is different because it's a nation of immigrants, and the culture should be a melting pot. I want the US, where I live, to be tolerant. I don't apply that standard to others.


What cultural differences are these? We're talking about Americans not foreigners.

All my Asian American friends are just Americans. If you talked talked to them on the phone you wouldn't be able to tell them apart from any other American.


Im asian-american and there are substantial differences between asian culture (especially if your parents are immigrants) from a typical white person greek system culture (even ivy league greek culture).

Keep your head down, dont make waves, dont ask for raises, dont cause trouble, follow the rules, be humble, are all great for fitting in to the machine, but not necessarily for becoming a leader.

In my neighborhood (mostly wealthy white) the people are so pushy, I can't believe the expectations they have for how the world should cater to them for every little thing.


I would guess the wealth more than anything is what makes people pushy like that.

Commuting through residential areas by bike, all the most entitled car drivers are found in the wealthy neighborhoods. (For example cutting me off or turning in front of me when I have right of way)


Cultural traits persist longer than accents. Not forever (if you wait many generation), but longer (often a few generations). If you talked to me or my sibling on the phone, you wouldn't be able to tell I wasn't any other American. On the other hand, many of our personality traits are reflective of the culture our parents were born in.

Growing up, I always thought those were places where I was socially awkward and didn't fit in. It wasn't until I did a deep dive into cultures and started managing international teams that I saw that these lined up completely with the culture my roots come from.

I can't talk about specific differences since how people from India differ is not the same as how people from Tanzania differ. A good survey for general differences is Hofstede's writing.

In addition, there are major differences in communication styles. I will mention a few major ones:

1) How positive one is. Americans always smile. They're always doing "well," "fantastic," or similar. Eggs start at medium, and go up from there. That's not true of most of the world.

2) When and how much one shows emotions or talks about personal details in professional settings. Immigrants from cultures who show them less (e.g. Japan) seem emotionally stilted. People from ones who do this more (including many African American communities -- you can't get more American than that) seem unprofessional.

3) China: Emojis / "cute pictures / etc. in professional communication.

4) When one disagrees (and especially across hierarchies), how, and especially how much confidence one shows. This is a gender difference too.

5) Sense of humor (what's funny -- watch foreign films and see where people laugh)

Most people have no problem getting over the big stuff (e.g. Middle Eastern gender relationships), but it's the subtle stuff that puts one in an uncanny valley. There's an almost fractal expansion of nuance in subtle ways language differs, what's appropriate, etc. That's really tough to manage unless both sides are expert in it.


> 1) How positive one is. Americans always smile. They're always doing "well," "fantastic," or similar. Eggs start at medium, and go up from there. That's not true of most of the world.

Whenever our American boss comes to visit this side of the pond, this drives me so nuts. Like, if things suck, just say so ffs. We royally fucked something up? We've had challenges. Some new thing is good but not mindblowingly amazing? Excellent.

Your language has a range of expression, please use it :'D


Americans do use a range of language too:

[okay, not bad, decent, awesome, fantabulous]

Depending on where you are, that might maps onto:

[horrible, passable, average, good, excellent]

In a management setting, those communications are sometimes obvious, but just as often you get into dynamics like:

* American managed by non-American: Constantly feeling criticized, like they're failing.

* Non-American managed by American: Often, not realizing when something went wrong.

Both sides need to be aware of the difference for this to work. It's a fair learning curve, but well worth it.


>Whenever our American boss comes to visit this side of the pond, this drives me so nuts. Like, if things suck, just say so ffs. We royally fucked something up? We've had challenges. Some new thing is good but not mindblowingly amazing? Excellent.

> Your language has a range of expression, please use it :'D

It's a bit of a stereotype, but be glad you don't have an anglophone boss from your side of the pond.


I find the replies super racist. Maybe I'm missing something

wooflie says "Americans always smile.". Americans is a super set of "Asian Americans". If you're comparing to Asians from Asia then your reply is irrelevant, the topic is not about foreign Asians. If you're not then your statement " Americans always smile." is basically implying that "Asian Americans" are not actually "Americans"

"Coffeeling" says "Whenever our American boss comes to visit this side of the pond". What does "this side of the pond" have to do with anything? The topic is about "Asian Americans" so same side of the pond.

"billfruit" says "Chinese American's may be exposed to the Confucian thought". So what? So might a white American or a Black American. There's more cultural difference between a white person from New Orleans vs Santa Monica than there is between an Asian American growing up in Cleveland and a European American growing up in Cleveland.


For example I am thinking that Chinese American's may be exposed to the Confucian thought and way of living, which is kind of different world view from the American one. There are cultural differences between people.


Could you share specific examples of those?


Not the OP but I remember reading a blog post from a Chinese (IIRC) man who went to work for an American investment firm and he commented on the fact that the corporate culture dominant in American firms favoured promotion of people who tended to be bold, and who took risky bets that paid off, even if the investments were the results of unsound judgement.

He found this to be characteristic of American business culture, and I think this is intuitively right. People in the US that make bold bets and get lucky even if their reasoning was wrong tend to be showered with fame (just take a look at all the celebrity founders), while people who just silently and methodologically work tend to be rather unknown. And that's a business culture definitely more dominant in East-Asian countries in particular.


You cannot generalize the culture in investment firms to other businesses. Very toxic working environment for everyone involved.


the whole point of being racist is not accepting other cultures and thinking yours is the "right" one. basically you're saying their culture is different that's why they don't fit. which unfortunately is true when you make a bias system.


“When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

- H.L. Mencken


Sure, but the (mostly) white and Asian commentators here agitating for an end to affirmative action for under-represented minorities are similarly not doing it just due to their severe opposition to racial discrimination in all forms.

This opposition is just as much, if not more, motivated by people feeling like their class interests are at risk.


> "This opposition is just as much, if not more, motivated by people feeling like their class interests are at risk."

Are under-represented minorities not highly "motivated by people feeling like their class interests are at risk" in the form of a desire to increase their class? Seems improbable to me, invalidating the rather unkind suggestion that it's only one side that's all about the money.


> invalidating the rather unkind suggestion that it's only one side that's all about the money.

I certainly didn't mean to suggest that, so I'm sorry if my comment was unclear to you. Indeed, I was actually replying to GP which seemed to be making the insinuation that only one side was about the money, so perhaps your comment would function better as a reply to that one?

I think it's pretty transparent that advocates of affirmative action are interested in promoting the economic interests of under-represented minorities, so I didn't think it needed to be explicitly said. Further, many of the advocates of affirmative action are not of the group being benefited directly, whereas most of those with a stake in dismantling diversity policies seem to stand to benefit from it.


I tend to agree with much of what you've posted in this comment section, but I want to point out that economic incentives are not what is truly at the heart of the moral underpinnings of affirmative action. If that was the point, then wouldn't cash or capital transfers be better? Instead, affirmative action, in its least cynical ideal, must be about the social value of higher education, which precludes consideration of income in lieu of race. Unless, of course, everything is ultimately about money. That's the last topic affirmative action naysayers want to breach, though, if they know what's good for them.


> "Indeed, I was actually replying to GP which seemed to be making the insinuation that only one side was about the money, so perhaps your comment would function better as a reply to that one?"

Oh, if that's the case, my apologies for the misunderstanding .


These days it's in the class interests of Whites and Asians to be against racial discrimination in all forms which in effect means not being able to be racist officially but not being an effective barrier to unofficial racism. Which is very much in Whites and Asians interests.

Still affirmative action just looks more arbitrary and nonsensical every year. I don't see how anybody can see what's happening to Asians as anything but racially discriminatory and arbitrarily penalizing.


Asian is such a generic term that I think one could characterize it as racist. My commanding officer in the US Marines were Korean-American and I can confidently say he was a great leader and someone I deeply respect and would follow into battle again even today.

There is such a broad and rich smorgasbord of cultural traditions from the Asian continent in the US that I don’t think it’s fair to lump them all together. When we start using personal anecdotes to prove some belief, we revert to some sort of pre-modern bigotry.

One thing that is for sure, in an attempt for equity, those with cultural norms to work hard, study hard and excel in life are being discriminated against. In the previous generation it was the Jews (in the US, as well as Europe) and today (broadly speaking) its Americans with an ethnic heritage from Asia. But the same underlying philosophy that killed undesirables in the Gulags of the Soviet and the death camps of the Nazi, are hard at work in the US today under the false pretense of “equity”.


Why do you think its about race and not merit or personal qualities?


I am an Asian-American high school senior who is nearing the end of the college admissions process.

I am so frustrated and angry that there is this discrimination, and people defend it. I feel that people don't take racism against Asian-Americans as seriously as racism against other groups.

Here's more about me. Like many people on HN, I'm a programmer. I'm interested in functional programming, programming language theory, and type theory. These interests caused me to discover pure math (such as category theory), and although I do not know as much about math than about programming, I want to learn more because I find these ideas elegant and beautiful. (For example, the Curry-Howard correspondence, which links programming to logic through the idea that programs are proofs, or HoTT, which gives types higher-dimensional structure based on the idea that equality types are the isomorphisms of an infinity-groupoid.)

I applied as a CS major to several colleges where PL theory had an academic presence, and in my supplemental essays, I discussed my interests and my desire to work with professors and do undergraduate research. I have competitive stats. Although other kids in my school got into my "reaches" (e.g. Cornell), I got rejected, but luckily I got into some "match" schools that did PL theory.

It's hard to say if affirmative action made a difference. Maybe if my application were exactly the same, but I weren't Asian, I would have gotten in, and if my application were the same except that I got an A instead of a B+ in a class, I would also have gotten in. I got waitlisted from some highly competitive schools, so I could have been on the edge. A big part of me not knowing how much my race would have made a difference is how non-transparent college admissions are. It's left up to some nebulous idea of "fit" decided by a group of people sitting at a table, who only have a few minutes to spend on each applicant.

But, what bothers me is the stereotypes. They've turned liking math and CS into a bad thing, at least when it's an Asian kid who's doing it. People defend affirmative action by saying that there are simply too many highly competitive Asian kids who want to study computer science. So, if I want to go to a good school, I shouldn't study computer science, even though that's what I want to do, just because of the way I was born? Among non-CS people, CS is probably seen as the stereotype track to get a high-paying job (and cynically, perhaps it's a popular major for this reason), but hopefully on a site such as HN, people will be more empathetic to the appeal of CS.

I'm also frustrated because most people probably don't know how math really is like. People just see it as nerdy word problems, and they've never heard of ideas like constructive math, programs-as-proofs, Cartesian closed categories, etc that I've become so intimate with. Why is it bad that I love math? Shouldn't you encourage me to learn this? I guess it's similar to the old stereotype of the "nerd" with no social skills, except with a racial element now.

It's a Catch-22 because people hold Asians to a higher standard, so we need to get higher grades and test scores to be competitive, then that feeds back into the stereotype that we are overly studious and have no personality. There is no winning for us in this game. Isn't it an objectively good thing to do well in school? If it were someone who weren't Asian, people would see high scores and grades as a positive thing or even cheer it on as a sign of increasing equality. Like all competitive high schoolers (of all races), we must play the game of having loads of AP classes, etc, but people specifically see Asians doing this as a negative stereotype.

But, on the front of us studying too much and not having personality, if you play an instrument, people will assume that you're doing it because your parents made you, or because of college admissions. Music is truly a beautiful thing and I experienced just how heartfelt it can be. (Sidenote: Watch Hibike! Euphonium or Your Lie in April!) But, just like the universal language of math, people have somehow turned Asians practicing the universal language of music into a bad thing. I can't imagine stronger proof of not being a robot, of being human, than experiencing how music can move you.

I implore you, in the meritocratic tradition of the hacker culture, to speak out against affirmative action and support Asian kids who want to pursue these passions.

EDIT: In fact, "affirmative action" is a euphemism. It's a vague-sounding term (an action that affirms something?) because people don't want to say "racial discrimination." Words have power to influence people, so I should start calling it what it is.


White dude here:

I went to a mostly black high school. My best friend had lower GPA, and lower SAT scores by 190 points. He and I were looking forward to attending same college. We applied to same major. He was admitted. I was wait listed. Ironically, my family was much poorer (trailer park) than his, and he felt much worse about it than I did. He assumed it was due to him being black, but no way to know for sure. I just made a point of visiting him a lot from the state school a few hours away.

Instead of dwelling on it, make the most of the college you DO attend. Remember that in the long run, your work and passions define your success far more than the institution you attend as a dumb 20 year old.

Race based affirmative action is silly, but I tell my son and daughter, who are mixed race (half Asian, white), that they need to focus on what they CAN control, rather than what they can't.

In the meantime, policies in the federal government designed to help descendants of slaves brought to US from Africa are benefiting wealthy people whose highly educated parents came here from Nigeria, because the policies don't differentiate beyond a superficial level. Simultaneously, my good friend whose family came here as barely literate refugees from Cambodia is lumped in same category as an Asian kid whose dad is a surgeon.

It's as idiotic as it is well meaning. Just remember that life will always be unfair, and that anger isn't an ideal way to handle it. You're going to dominate no matter how much these elitist morons try to hold you down.


It's very weird to me rich Nigerians can abuse the system, but poor South Africans are rejected as 'African American' altogether due to the color of their skin. Honestly, US race dealings are a cancer, I would move anywhere else.


It's that American cultural aversion to ever admitting that race is tied to history, they want to be seen to be doing something about racism but still do it through a racist lens where what matters is whether you look black and not what it actually means to have been discriminated against by American history and policy.


> not what it actually means to have been discriminated against by American history and policy.

There is a massive historical element to the position that most black americans find themselves in now. But there is also ongoing racism, which I don't see how you can tackle with only color blind policies.


It has some relevance for Americans, and clearly wasn't made to fit every global community. I'm not defending it, but I would think domestic applicants are far more numerous and therefore the effects on them merit more consideration.


You know a lot of poor South African white people who immigrate to America?


Cheers for this. So many people talking out of their asses here.


It's because predicating carefully-chosen giveaways to "the right kind" of people with darker skin is easier and preferable to the elite than what is actually righteous and necessary: capital transfers (reparations) to the descendents of people who were wronged, and the people who are affected by stigma against the people who were wronged.

The fact that all of the various workarounds end up targeting people nominally outside the scope is a feature, not a bug.


This is true everywhere. In India the SC/ST community have a lot of reservations in all colleges, Govt. jobs, Govt. procurement etc. Even after 70 years these were introduced and increased in % sometimes seats do not fill up. What has been observed is that the same group of SC/STs who mostly got everything hand delivered to them take advantage of the system. You see 3 generations of the same family utilizing the benefits. At the same time the really poor , remain poor.

This is more of a policy and political (changes cannot happen now otherwise there will be riots ) failure. No system can be perfect meritocracy, sometimes one just needs to suck up. Taking the comparison elsewhere one can argue effectively that where we are born is a matter of luck etc.

Personally i do not question policy intentions however always hope for better implementations in the future.


Yeah even after 70 years what is the representation of SC/ST people in any walk of public life in India? Affirmative action is more so a tool for representation than poverty alleviation device.


I think this is entirely dependent on the scale at which it is implemented. Certainly, you're right if we're only talking about for admission at elite colleges/universities.


India is well known for its casteism against untouchables which is nothing but pure racism. Even after 70 years of affirmative action - India still has 20% of its upper castes controlling 80% of Class A and Class B posts. Without affirmative action - it would have been 100%.


Are these sorts of policies really going to get any better when the rhetoric they're based on is ramping up and demographics continue to shift in favor of groups that benefit from the policies? It's already practically socially forbidden to debate this sort of thing in public using your own name. I'm not going to have children, but I'm worried for the children of my siblings and cousins. Their parents don't have money or college educations and they're going to have a lot of roadblocks in their way and people telling them they don't deserve what little they do have.

Overall, I don't really know what any of us can do about it other than complain on the internet though. Unfortunately I don't really see a viable path forward to changing any of these policies.


Those policies bring a lot of cash to politicians to so called social scientists and to bureaucrats in the academia. If it weren't for the identity politics they would have been unemployed or had to do real work.


Social scientists aren't rolling in money.


Said someone who clearly knows very little about academia payscales.


I had a half-black friend (which just means he was 100% black by our standards) get admitted to Harvard. The entire time he had this insecurity that he only got in because he was black and not because he was smart. Sure, the guy wasn't as smart as me in some areas, like he didn't pick up programming as fast, but he was smarter than me across a larger spectrum and definitely seemed more poised to become a leader. It was painful for me to watch him defeat himself over it, he had a bright future for someone who came up from such a difficult background.

Definitely, you have to control what you can, and not let the things people say get to your head, I wonder how he came to the conclusions he did.


> It's as idiotic as it is well meaning

Is it well meaning? The behaviour of the advocates for these sorts of policies fits vastly closer to

* Want to dehumanise people by seeing them only as a member of their respective groups

* Want an excuse to hate on a particular group of people

* Constructed a story where doing that makes them the good guys

than

* looked at the problems people have

* tried to understand them

* tried to come up with a solution which would improve things


> * Want to dehumanise people by seeing them only as a member of their respective groups

This seems like such a facile argument. It seems very difficult to combat racism (ie. the common strand of thought in society that sees people only as a member of their racial group) if you can't consider race at all.

How, for instance, could we even make racial discrimination illegal if the state were entirely forbidden from considering the race of its citizens at all?


Kind of the same way we do now with blood type.


Elaborate on that?


> Want to dehumanise people by seeing them only as a member of their respective groups

How do you propose governing people without somehow grouping them?

It feels like the slippery slope that data aggregators go down. The tension between specificity and parsimony. False positives vs false negatives. Okay so no Nigerian children of privilege. But what about Rwandan children of privilege who were refugees after genocide? So to fix this problem, _more_ grouping seems inevitable, but that's the slippery slope. How much invasion into and quantification of peoples' personal lives can we tolerate in the interest of enforcing equality? I don't think these problems have an easy answer, and "not grouping" doesn't really seem like an option either.

My personal take is just to use socioeconomic background (class) as the main factor. But race, gender, and other identifying factors inevitably play a role. There are some special historical traumas, like slavery, that I do think admit special consideration when we define "equal opportunity," even today.


> It's as idiotic as it is well meaning. Just remember that life will always be unfair, and that anger isn't an ideal way to handle it. You're going to dominate no matter how much these elitist morons try to hold you down.

College admissions depend much more on things you can't control than most people realize. For example, preferences are often given to children of donors, children of alumni, applicants from different states, and even male applicants (many colleges seek a 50/50 ratio.) At the end of the day, it can be almost random that one person is admitted while another is rejected - perhaps that person was a concert violinist and there were too many violinists who applied that year!

Fortunately it is possible to get an outstanding education nearly anywhere you attend. One data point is that faculty jobs are so competitive that nearly any professor who is hired needs to be some kind of superstar, regardless of the institution. Moreover, most colleges have very useful and often excellent facilities in terms of libraries, computing and online resources, laboratories, performance spaces, gyms, etc., and tend to be full of interesting people who you will learn a lot from. Community colleges in particular are the best bargain in education - affordable tuition, and faculty who are actually there primarily to teach students (rather than publish papers and raise money, which are higher priorities at research universities.)


I am glad I don't live in the US and my kid won't have to endure severe discrimination on the basis he is white and a boy.


I don't think that "severe discrimination" even compares to the regular subtle discrimination faced by most non-white Americans (and Europeans), and that's part of why it's still in place in the US. I'm glad for you that you have the option to choose a place that supposedly discriminates against your child less.


I hold a different belief - it is that the liberal faction in our society - while virtuous along some dimensions - has promoted economic and racial policy which has contributed to the worsening of race relations and made life worse for the black and white working class.

The disintegration of black, and then white social organization at the lower class levels can be tracked - I believe if there existed a revival of tacit knowledge, the trades then the society would be more prosperous and less divided than it is now.

Some of us on the left and right see eye to eye on this and the moderates are the ones who are delusional. The middle class concentration on information processing has damaged the society and their faction does not acknowledge negative results from knowledge. This is not anti-intellectual - the residents in HN must respect the note that every major stagnation in history is accompanied by the formalization of education and society. You all know it is true of computer code - beset by legacy issues.

That is why I take projects like Urbit seriously.


Where's your data supporting this claim?


He demands, as entire sectors of academia creak above his head, threatening to crash down and dash him against a floor on which the phrase, "reverse racism," is painted in 12-point font between two 200-point quotation marks.


Yes it does.

Everyone gets discriminated against and stereotyped in subtle manners. All that varies is what way people are stereotyped.

Even in the USA, the people called "white" aren't considered the pinacle in every area.

(Also, if you want to see real discrimination try being of Chinese descent in Malaysia)


I hope your son doesn't live in The Netherlands then either, because it's going the same way there. And I'm sure in many Western-European countries it's the same. Where people get selected for top positions to fill some quota instead of being selecting on qualities.

These quotas are discrimination in itself. And it becomes more complicated with mixed-race people. At one point one becomes "too white" or "too black" or "too asian"? In Brazil it's become way too complicated and ridiculous [0], for example.

---

[0]: https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/05/brazils-new-problem-wit...


People should be judged by their capabilities, skills, personal situation, not by race, gender or other group belonging.

We live in Eastern Europe, where even if this things are pushed by some politicians and some media, they still aren't a policy. Anyway, I feel that in most of the Europe there is a backlash against "identity politics", people got enough of it.

Discrimination is bad, no matter how is done.


Discrimination is also inevitable, because we are human, and we are biased. Affirmative action is attempting to resolve the perception that some groups have more bias against them, consistently, due to historical impact.

Also more complex: ignoring discrimination, even if implicit, creates an environment where our natural human impulses (tribalism/bias) flourish.


I think Affirmative Action made sense when it was instituted, but it was never intended to be implemented indefinitely. There is so much to talk about in this subject, but since it revolves around race people feel uncomfortable talking about it.

I ask 2 questions to anyone I know who comes out in support of affirmative action:

1) Is the policy actually effective? If so, what has been the effect?

2) When is the policy no longer needed?

I see far too many people who seem to think its just the way it is and is meant to be in place indefinitely. I think its absurd that the children of Beyonce can have their race considered, but we don't consider the adversity of the children of a poor, white, laid-off coal miner or the poor, hard-working asian immigrant from NYC. Rising above adversity itself is impressive and is definitely a qualifier to consider for admissions.

Think of the rich discussion we can get into about how we determine how someone truly stands out because of rising above the circumstances they grew up in. We could consider things such as average income, percent of households with a single parent, percentage of food secure households and a wealth of other data instead of Race.

I hope we can get beyond Race in the not too distant future, it's definitely a subject we can talk about, but in the context of college admissions I think adversity is far more appropriate to consider.


This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what affirmative action is meant to correct. It's not simply about bridging economic divides, any more than college is solely about future earning potential. Rather, as higher education is intended to produce capable, responsible, and sophisticated members of society - in other words, to create a better society - affirmative action is meant to correct for long-standing and extant social bias. The x-points-lower SAT score a black applicant might need versus a comparable white or Asian applicant represents the energy redirected to physical and psychological survival particular to the black experience in America, regardless of income (as the other Mr. Gates will attest). It is not an in-spite-of situation, but a but-for one, writ large across American history and society. With college purporting to be the last stop before an educated adult's entrance into society, it is meant to remediate as well as elevate, for those who pass a minimum bar of competency.

The temptation to reduce affirmative action to an economic argument is especially ironic in that many of the mechanisms used to implement it were first used in the opposite direction, to cast university as beyond a purely economic arrangement, as eminently qualified Jewish students threatened to fill class rolls in the early 20th century. Suddenly, test scores were not important, character was. With the swing to hysteria over race in admissions, the inheritors of the legacy of steel drivers and sharecroppers are subject to less-than-genuine arguments centered around money. Suddenly, character is not important, economic uplift is. Hm.


Adversity isn't solely an economic argument though. It's a genuine effort to try to identify the true outliers. If you stand out significantly in a school district with a high absentee rate and low test scores it might indicate that you have perseverance and aptitude far greater then average and may be a better indicator of future performance then being a little above the mean at Phillips Exeter. These are not the most comfortable conversations to have because being above average at Phillips Exeter is an impressive feat and I don't want to discount this, but it's also important to recognize the people that rise through adversity. Can you answer the first 2 questions I posed in my original comment?


You're casting adversity in terms of economic adversity. A poorly-performing school district, rce-agnostic, performs poorly because it is likely underfunded in regards to its needs. That's your example, not mine. But adversity in America absolutely appears along racial lines, regardless of economic positioning. A black student at a top-performing school is carrying not only the obvious academic load of an intensive curriculum, but also the silent social load of race in America.

When someone like that, who is hopefully aware of the mechanisms of race even as they are buoyed on the privilege of wealth, enters an Ivy League school, they carry with them the legacy of black experience while also representing a high chance at academic success. He is not better than his lower-income brother, but his matriculation is not a loss for the concept of affirmative action in this manner. And until the long process of correcting the imbalance in representation in society - particularly elite society - is finished, affirmative action will be necessary. History has proven that certain aspects of our society have to be dragged kicking and screaming into progress and fulfillment of America's founding notions, and AA is one tool for doing so.


Downvotes are not for disagreement.


No they are not. They are for revenge and punishment!

The downvote keep the party line with what majority is saying is the most annoying thing about this site, but I don't know the alternative. Certainly trolls and the ill informed need to be discouraged but it's always annoying to see a legitimate reasoned opinion greyed out.

BTW, I don't agree with your original comment for whatever it's worth. I do agree with your downvote comment.


>BTW, I don't agree with your original comment for whatever it's worth.

Well, let's hear why.


No way! I don't want to be downvoted off the page.


American culture has a long history of having an anti-intellectual streak. A football player seen as a hero, while a boy good at math is seen as a "nerd". It's the problem of bad neighborhoods, where the most popular kids in schools have the biggest fists, and who encourage or even force kids more interested in learning to "not be dorks", thus keeping them in the trap of poverty.

There are many reasons why this dynamic could arise. The problem is that it's not entirely gone even now, after like 50 years of "nerds" in engineering and finance having some of the most enviable career paths.

Facing it should be especially hard for Asian kids, as it used to be for Jewish kids in Europe: a different parenting culture helps them achieve more earlier, and actually like studying.


To play the devil's advocate, if these poorer neighborhoods, which may correlate with race, have a culture that discourages kids who study, that might actually be an argument to take race into account, if there's say, a black applicant whose score isn't as good, but it's competitive and they came from a bad place and overcame the odds. Due to my own values and experiences, I'd empathize with someone who values intellectualism but has been kept down due to their outside circumstances. It's an unfortunate situation and I would hope that the kid's hard work pays off.

However, I think that this should stay as judging individuals and their circumstances and putting them in the context of the environment, and it should not justify wide-scale generalizations like secret quotas hidden with personality tests, etc. As you point out, such things further anti-intellectualism and penalize Asians and Jews for working hard.

(It would also be more productive to support people in those neighborhoods from the start, such as by supporting elementary schools, instead of waiting until college admissions.)


What about the poor asians like my parents who immigrated here, after facing rampant discrimination in their homeland, lived in a poorer neighborhood, because that's all they could afford as new transplants, were enslaved by their own family, but managed to break out of that, go to school again to get into their dream job, and who now want to send their two sons to the best schools in the country?

Why shouldn't those circumstances be taken into account? Perhaps it's because -- as a race -- most Asians are too proud to talk about this in their admissions essays, and moreover, their intellectual accumen would tend to indicate that these -- frankly minor -- issues are not important when considering what school to attend.

What we should really be talking about is why anyone -- Asian or black or whatever -- needs to elicit the sympathy of some old WASP to attend school. The whole 'write a sob story' trope is true because this appeals to popular white culture. It's time that ends, and we let adults run the show.


Yes, I agree completely. Because I personally don't come from a poor background, I fell into the racist trap against my own race of forgetting about poorer Asians (who may also live in such neighborhoods, and may be bullied if they locally comprise of the minority). Thank you for correcting me and for downvoting (I assume).

I also agree that the current situation of having to write a touching essay for some WASP is messed up. To be fair, not all essays are sob stories and people actually warn that it shouldn't be all sob and you need to show how you grew, but the whole idea of essays and personality is so vague and subjective, and kids get so stressed over writing a good essay.

EDIT: Offtopic, but looking at your username, do you happen to be the author of the Haskell BEAM library?


in this case, should'nt the root cause (bullying and bad school environment) be addressed?

if this was in a completely different sector, where a small more powerful subset uses strength, we would use terminology such as 'anti-competitive practices', 'coercion' etc.

I don't have a solution, but strongly feel that addressing the root cause prevents the child from being victimized in the first place, rather than acknowledging his reality and providing the crutches that help him get to a levelling field in the real world.


Over a decade ago, I was in the same boat. I was an Asian-American competing against high school classmates for spots at brand name university X. I had much better test scores, much harder courses, more extracurricular activities, and a higher GPA. My extracurricular activities were even "traditionally American" like varsity sports, student council, etc. I got along very well with my non-Asian peers, and many looked to me as a leader.

This name brand college, which everyone has heard of, accepted 3 inferior students, all of them belonging to better affirmative action demographics than me, none of whom had the intellect/desire to even handle AP Calculus AB. One of these students was so shocked that she took a spot at this university instead of me that she sought me out, apologized to me, and opined to me that affirmative action seems to be very unfair. Mind you, these 3 inferior students all came from well-to-do families -- 1 of them much wealthier than my own (and she was the one who apologized to me). They were not inner city kids who had to work 2 jobs while studying to stay above water -- I wouldn't have been angry if this were the case.

You've probably been raised to believe that the ranking of the college you attend is the go-to indicator of intelligence. Now you're realizing that's not really true -- at least not in America. It took me a very long time to make peace with the fact that I had believed in this falsehood all my life, fed to me by my parents and by society. But once I did, I could finally focus on improving my life and the lives of those I cared about, rather than wallowing in bitterness and resentment.

Life isn't fair. The faster you make peace with this, the better off you'll be in the long run. If you manage to keep your head on straight, you'll probably become more successful than many graduates from these universities.


Mind to connect on LinkedIn? https://www.linkedin.com/in/yxzhao/

Very interested in learning how well you are doing now professionally.


Take heart - many of us do speak out and support you. It's just that most of us aren't actually empowered to help either. It's a somewhat defeatist perspective, but just know that the system really is rigged against you here, but it's also rigged against a whole lot of people in many ways that go far beyond college admissions. If you're lucky, this experience will help develop your empathy and leave a chip on your shoulder too. Both of those things will prove advantageous if and when you obtain the means to help fix these systemic issues. Solidarity, friend.


I won't mix up master's and PhD. The latter is a much stronger filter, and harder work for a less certain reward.

(Disclaimer: walked out of my postgrad program after 3 years, because the industry, with all its warts, is so much saner than the academia.)


It's funny. We're very similar. I'm also interested in PL (albeit a little less theory-oriented than you). I'm also Asian American. I also didn't get into the schools that I wanted to attend. If you go to Stuyvesant this would be perfect.

I agree that there's something vexing about having this stereotype which can almost dominate or define you. We should certainly fight against being depicted as math/CS loving robots.

However I disagree that this ties into affirmative action. Yes, Asians face discrimination and dehumanization in our lives. But black and hispanic and other people of color face discrimination and dehumanization at such an extreme. Whether that's redlining, discriminatory banking practices or police brutality, there are active forces at play that hurt young people of color and prevent them from getting the best possible education. For instance, the average black family has one tenth the wealth of the average white family^[1].

It's easy to see these policies that are determining resource allocation based on race and not just merit as racial discrimination, but what's important to understand is that the merit part is clouded by racial discrimination of its own. It's just better hidden.

Let me be clear though: this is purely against your affirmative action points. Any potential discrimination against Asians outside of affirmative action is unacceptable.

[1]: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/racial-wealth-gap-costs-economy...


>For instance, the average black family has one tenth the wealth of the average white family

So make it wealth based?

>Let me be clear though: this is purely against your affirmative action points. Any potential discrimination against Asians outside of affirmative action is unacceptable.

Why draw the line arbitrarily at affirmative action? Why not housing as well? Maybe a quota on high-paying jobs?


> So make it wealth based?

Affirmative action via wealth is already in place at Harvard.

Shockingly, not all adversity faced by black Americans comes simply from wealth disparities, although that is a large part of it. I'm white and I've seen enough not-so-subtle racism to understand that those things can have a large cumulative effect, even if each individual instance is someone just making a small snap judgement about you.

It's funny that studies like these about intentional affirmative action policies rise to the top of HN, whereas studies showing that black people with the exact same credentials are half as likely to get an interview for a job don't.


> Why draw the line arbitrarily at affirmative action? Why not housing as well? Maybe a quota on high-paying jobs?

Uhh yeah I actually totally think programs to give underrepresented minorities opportunities for better housing would be great. The history of redlining is despicable and we need to work to actively reverse it.

Same with jobs. Programs like Microsoft Explore or Google STEP are active attempts to increase diversity. They're wonderful.


> I'm interested in functional programming, programming language theory, and type theory. These interests caused me to discover pure math (such as category theory)...I applied as a CS major to several colleges where PL theory had an academic presence

It's awesome that you know what you're interested and exploring it, but I'd caution against committing so heavily into one specific part of CS when you applying as an undergrad--that almost read like someone applying to grad school. Most of your courses will be pretty generic (as opposed to specialized). Between those, humanities, other science classes, etc., I'd actually suggest trying to expose yourself to as much as possible. If you still have that passion in four years, by all means go for the master's, but also:

http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/

I don't mean any of this as discouragement, just that there's so much out there, and so many rich, unexpected connections to make, there will be time to focus later. But don't be undeclared, either.


I'll echo this. This kind of laser focus narrows options a lot after university as well. The dirty secret about most "ML" jobs is that a lot of the work looks like the things professors delegate to grad and undergrad students: data collection, data cleaning, automation, etc. The actual ML is a fraction of the work at best.

Same goes for computer science as such. Most of the work is grunt work in testing, debugging, peer review, etc. As you advance, there may be more time available for pure math work, but that means the amount of communication just goes way up: writing, peer reviews, presentations, management, managing up, etc.

Point being, don't be afraid to develop your application skills. Things like teamwork and communication matter a lot. Computer science is the common major, but most demand is for coders. Of course, what companies need is typically software engineers and (good!) software project management.


Thank you for the advice. Other people have told me this as well. I chose a school where PL theory has a presence so I can pursue my specific interests, but I expect that the undergraduate CS curriculum will also give me a well-rounded CS education.


I'm Asian. I just applied for several grants specifically for minority owned businesses.

Yes, Asians are over represented in colleges. Being Asian won't help you in your admissions.

> I implore you, in the meritocratic tradition of the hacker culture, to speak out against affirmative action and support Asian kids who want to pursue these passions.

How are you unable to pursue your passions-because you didn't get into your first choice school?

> So, if I want to go to a good school, I shouldn't study computer science, even though that's what I want to do, just because of the way I was born?

Speaking of Asian stereotypes--going to a good school isn't really that important in the grand scheme of things.


>> I implore you, in the meritocratic tradition of the hacker culture, to speak out against affirmative action and support Asian kids who want to pursue these passions.

> How are you unable to pursue your passions-because you didn't get into your first choice school?

I meant that people see Asians liking math or CS as a negative thing and it feeds into the stereotype of having no personality, when there's nothing wrong with liking math or CS.

>> So, if I want to go to a good school, I shouldn't study computer science, even though that's what I want to do, just because of the way I was born?

> Speaking of Asian stereotypes--going to a good school isn't really that important.

It's not so much that I want to go to a "good" school than that I wanted to go to a school where PL had a presence. It's about my interests, not prestige.

In fact, there were "good" schools that I didn't apply to because they didn't have PL, which in hindsight could have been a bad idea given the advice I've received to get a well-rounded education in undergrad and only specialize in grad school.

And being Asian has nothing to do with this. Non-Asian kids also obsess about prestige, going to the Ivy League, etc, but only Asians get the flak, which is where the racial double-standards come in.


> I meant that people liking math or CS as a negative thing and it feeds into the stereotype of having no personality.

Which people? Perhaps you are projecting. Or, you're just looking at your peer high school students.

I can assure you no one will give you shit if you like math once you get to college. You will be surrounded by people with similar interests as you, and assuming you pursue a career in CS, you will also be surrounded by people who have passionate as that.


thanks for speaking up about this. 31 y/o asian male here. i have worked in the tech industry and seen plenty of skewed hiring practices in the popular tech companies. people are starting to speak out.


it will affect him in job applications too ;)


That reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the Wire, when Det. Kima GreggS says "Sometimes things just got to play hard."

When it comes to tech; there are plenty of open positions ready to be filled with smart programmers. Maybe not at OP's top-choice, but there will be jobs.


I agree with all this. Part of the problem, however, is the American college system. Why is it so important to go to a school like Cornell, CMU, or UPenn? I'm not saying you shouldn't want to go to a school like that -- they probably are better, and you do deserve a fair shot at attending one of them. But the stratification of our university system does a disservice to students. In my experience, the most important factor in learning is intrinsic motivation -- the sort of motivation that comes from within, which doesn't depend on which school you're at. I went to an elite private institution for college, and I've learned more in community college courses, I'd wager, because I cared more about what I was learning. This isn't to say that you won't get superior instruction at a Harvard or Cornell; you likely will. So it is unfair, deeply. But it shouldn't be this way. We should level the playing field -- make all universities "pretty good". Fund them, publicly. End the price-gouging private institutions are allowed to inflict on their students, even if it means those institutions close. Europe is a good model: university there is much more self-directed and equitable, and the opportunities to do great research do still exist. We need to break free of the Ivy League system and remember that university is about learning, not competition.


Like you said I think intrinsic motivation matters more than where you go. I went to a "shitty" (at least that's what CMU kids have said more than once to me to my face) school, University of Pittsburgh. I did fun research during undergrad and managed to get a job after graduating easily enough. At that job, different CMU graduates called me dumb for going to a public high school and university, uncultured, and literally laughed in my face when I said that I wanted to switch careers and be a surgeon. During med school interviews, a Harvard girl immediately turned around and stopped talking to me after she asked where I went to college. Now I'm in medical school at a ~40th ranked place (no not Harvard or Penn, shocker) well on my way to my career goals. I've done deep learning research at a top children's hospital and am scoring great on practice board exams.

I guess my point is that people will always find something to shit on you for, and the bias against lower ranked schools comes from above. The state schools like Penn State, OSU, Pitt, Michigan, Florida, Illinois etc. are enormous institutions that have a good amount of research going on and are definitely accessible to a motivated high school student. So if you don't get in to an Ivy League school, your opportunities aren't going to be limited as much as you think, and rejection is a great motivator.


The reason why I applied to Cornell, CMU, and UPenn was that they all have strong PL departments.

CMU offers an undergraduate PL concentration where you learn FP and constructive math: https://csd.cs.cmu.edu/academics/undergraduate/principles_of... I believe I really would have benefitted from this.

The fact is that being a prestigious or elite school often goes hand-in-hand with having good professors and research. There is a certain unfairness, but it seems inherent that a "better" university would naturally have more resources and more professors would come there. But, we should have more top-level universities to accommodate more people. After all, top colleges are always claiming that they have to turn down qualified applicants every year.


It'd probably be worth shooting professors in those departments at those schools an email to try to set up research with them during your summers. There's at least some chance they can take you on or there is a research program you can be a part of. You're motivated and interested in those topics so I suspect you will be able to teach yourself what a course at one of those schools would have taught you.


Oh for sure, I'm not arguing that you don't get better opportunities at those "name" schools. You very likely do.

I'm just saying that that's in itself something of a problem. Like, I'm angry about the concentration of academic "worthiness" in a select number of institutions. I'd like us to work on reversing that trend, making education more meritocratic, decentralized and accommodating.

For example: it's expensive as hell to house students on a campus like Harvard, Yale, etc. The benefits of doing so are furthermore unclear. In much of the world, you live at home during your university years. Or with roommates in a city. Re-centering university life from these inaccessible campuses and into cities would do a lot to lower the barrier and cost of entry, IMO.


> Why is it so important to go to a school like Cornell, CMU, or UPenn?

Colleges spend a lot of time and money on selecting the smartest students, so companies don't have to. Screening is quite expensive, and anecdotally, people from prestigious universities generally pass interviews at a much higher rate.

Being around smarter and more ambitious people makes you smarter as well. I feel that has a lot more impact than faculty. My top CS school had some senile tenured professors who were barely comprehensible, so we had to learn a lot from each other.


I think you'd find plenty of smart and ambitious students at your local community and state colleges. Yes, it might be harder to find them, but they're definitely there.

But yeah, not saying that there aren't major advantages to going to a school like Cornell or CMU. Just that these schools are outrageously expensive, inequitable and we have some power to relax their grip on our higher education system by asserting that yes, we can be smart, educated and worthy people (and engineers!) even if we go to more "low-brow" schools.


Regardless of what your hobbies are, nothing will change the fact that your Asian American, and that's huge disadvantage. I don't know if getting another citizenship of another country will help much: if you can change your application race legally, that should help.

I would suggest a different major other than CS, or at least go in as undeclared: that should help a little bit. Or try a major that's not typically associated with Asian-american.


I’m 1/8 Native American. I didn’t check that box when applying for schools, but wised up when applying for a scholarship. I got that scholarship.

I would encourage any white or Asian person that’s against affirmative action to also mark themselves as an additional race, even if it’s a lie. What school you get in to (and what job, etc.) should be based on merit. If affirmative action is still to exist now it should be based on income, not race.


Lying on your application can get it summarily rejected. I would advise against this.


College applications season is ending and decisions are out. I don't know about going in undeclared, but choosing a different major is a risk that can backfire if your classes and ECs don't match up with it and admissions officers see through it, or if it's hard to change your major to CS or transfer into the school that has it.


Yeah... I wouldn't listen to GP, because being Asian-American is not a disadvantage, and gaming the system is bad advice. As someone who is Asian and went to a predominantly Asian high school, I saw tons of my schoolmates succeed in getting admitted to great colleges. College applications, like job applications, are really all about how you present yourself and how you tell your story. If you have a strong essay, you have a good chance at convincing an admissions officer to let you in.

My advice to you would be to:

a) Talk to a counselor about your essay. My fiancee worked at a SAT prep school and she helped tons of people get into Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Ivy League schools. Your essay matters a lot. It's the only thing that shows you're more than a statistic, and gives you a chance to show off your passions. Having someone look at this helps a lot.

b) Apply to as many schools as you can. Don't fixate on individual schools, try to get as many opportunities as you can. College admissions, like job applications, are mostly a numbers game, so the more place you apply to, the higher your chances you'll get into something you like.

c) Don't be too disappointed if you don't get into your first choice. In the end, college is really more about what you make of it, rather than the pedigree of the school itself. I've worked with tons of great engineers with degrees from top universities and small community college alike. College pedigree doesn't determine your success, hard work and discipline do. Having a passion for CS is great too.

Good luck! Don't give up hope, I'm sure you'll get into a good school.


You should read the GP a bit closer. He already got rejected by his first choice. This is one of the reasons why he said that being Asian-American is a disadvantage.

And he's right -- it is a disadvantage in terms of getting into American universities. You can read my story in response to the GP. You can read countless anecdotes online. You can read the stats from the various studies and court trials.

Asian-Americans still do okay in American life in general, after college. One just has to be ready to accept that the university you attend does not have the final say in how your life unfolds.


>because being Asian-American is not a disadvantage

It very clearly is.


Why do you think it's a huge disadvantage? Your advice seems defeatist, and at best, is highly discouraging. Do you really think it's a good idea to tell a young high schooler to game the system to get into college?


If you don't mind stating as a matter of transparency, would you be willing to provide some statistics w.r.t to your application? In particular, maybe possibly your high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

As an Asian American, I logically understand that there is discrimination applied towards us, yet for myself and among my peer group, I feel like we really didn't experience too many difficulties. I imagine my perspective is probably biased, as in California, the public UC system doesn't practice affirmative action, of which my university is a part of.


Okay, I just checked my Northeastern application submission:

GPA: 5.46/5 weighted

SAT Reading and Writing: 790

SAT Math: 790

SAT Essay: 19

SAT Math II: 800

SAT Chemistry: 800

P.S: As for California, you're not going to like this: https://felleisen.org/matthias/Articles/loyalty.pdf In order to advance in academia in the UCs, you have to sign a loyalty oath supporting affirmative action!


Thank you for posting these publicly. Note that they are very good, and they are competitive for the schools you applied to. That said, they are also not that uncommon for some of the schools you applied to.

The grandparent post did not ask for (imho) the important thing. Namely, what is something significant you have done on a regional, national, or international scale? This can be academic, artistic, athletic, or whatever.

Note that this is not a requirement for admission to any of these schools, but it really helps a lot -- it serves as the one thing that sets you apart when you are not a recruited athlete or an applicant with the right social capital (e.g., come from a powerful and known family)... assuming that you don't fall into these categories.

Also note that many (most?) applicants from a variety of backgrounds (white, Asian... actually pretty much everyone) with "almost perfect scores and GPA" fall into the category of whiffing on this front.


Accounting for some minor differences in scaling (my high school GPA was weighted on a 4.0 scale and SAT scores were out of 2400 when I took them), my stats are very similar to yours. I'm surprised honestly that you didn't get into better schools.


I got rejected from Cornell, CMU, and UPenn, which are extremely competitive schools to be fair. But other people in my grade did get into Cornell. (I do not know whether anyone got into CMU or UPenn.)

I got waitlisted from Georgia Tech and UChicago, but they weren't top choices for me, so I don't mind.

Full disclosure: My ECs were weaker. I really liked my essay, but my mom claims that it gave a negative message that I didn't do much in school.

I wrote about how in the past, I didn't care so much about high school and was looking forward to going to college so I could do PL theory, but after watching a heartfelt anime called K-On, I realized how special high school was, and joined a club and made new closer friends there. By the way, thank you HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18787851 and may KyoAni (the anime studio that made K-On) recover from the massacre last year.


> My ECs were weaker

Honestly, I'm not convinced it helps. I think it's just an incredibly racist thing that colleges say to quietly justify their policies. My grades weren't the best (my high school was well known for not having grade inflation) I got good math scores and even better verbal scores (750/800), produced and directed a full-length play, captained the chess team (which included successfully petitioning the democratic student assembly for a funds allocation for the team, and rallying the team to defeat the regional powerhouse science and tech high school), and couldn't get into good Tech-ey schools that were claiming to "want more interesting candidates. I guess aside from great test scores, I didn't directly have anything to show technically at the time of application, but I did wind up getting a 3rd place in my division at the ISEF the week after getting a rejection from MIT.

My dad wanted me to ask a family friend (carpooled with his kids to elementary school) for assistance who happened to be the chief of the house science appropriations committee. I told my dad not to bother calling in for a favor. That's not a decision I regret as that person wound up being the architect of the PATRIOT act.

Anyways I wound up at UChicago. Don't count them out if they take you off the waitlist. Their theoretical math program is top notch and their CS program at least is well known for having a good OS theory class.


Given our scores are relatively similar with some inevitable variance attributed to our essays (personally I think your essay topic choice was totally fine and might have even helped you with its uniqueness), perhaps this acts as supporting evidence towards the potential benefits of abolishing affirmative action on a more comprehensive scale.

An income-based affirmative action would be far more effective in my opinion, as opposed to affirmative action based on ethnicity, which to me just seems like a proxy for socioeconomic status that is objectively worse in its attempts at representation.


> An income-based affirmative action would be far more effective in my opinion, as opposed to affirmative action based on ethnicity, which to me just seems like a proxy for socioeconomic status that is objectively worse in its attempts at representation.

I completely agree with this.

One of the challenges is that income can be gamed, but I think that this can probably be worked around somehow.

Edit: Maybe the UC implementation would work?

> UC may choose to advance goals like diversity and equal opportunity using a broad range of admissions that are not based on an individual’s race or gender. For example, holistic review in admissions considers income level, first-generation status, neighborhood circumstances, disadvantages overcome, low-performing secondary school attended, and the impact of an applicant’s background on academic achievement.


I agree. I think

> income level, first-generation status, neighborhood circumstances, disadvantages overcome, low-performing secondary school attended, and the impact of an applicant’s background on academic achievement

are probably the best possible set of signaling factors in determining whether a person has the ability to overcome adversity.


I'm a faculty in CMU's School of Computer Science, and wanted to share a few quick things. Please note that these are my solely my personal opinions.

First, as you note, CMU is incredibly competitive. Here are some stats for students admitted to CompSci last year (taken from https://admission.enrollment.cmu.edu/pages/school-of-compute...).

  Average Unweighted GPA:3.96
  SAT Middle 50% for Evidence-Based Reading & Writing: 750-800
  SAT Middle 50% for Math: 790-800
We have applicants with perfect SAT scores that aren't admitted. The problem is that, past a certain level, there are so many qualified applicants, and no university can accept all of them.

Second, as an Asian-American myself, I have some mixed feelings about affirmative action, but over the years have leaned more towards it. One reason is that grades are a useful predictor but only one of many of how well people will do in university and in life. Take a look at Terman's Termites, and how his testing of young students missed future Nobel Prize winners, and how many of the termites just ended up being average. Another is equity issues. There really are underrepresented minorities that have overcome a lot given where they started, but don't have as high test scores. There are also cohort issues, where dropout rates of underrepresented minorities is higher if they don't have as many peers or role models. There are also pragmatic issues, with young men (mostly Caucasian and Asian-American) dominating in Silicon Valley, leading to real blindspots in product design (basically, people tend to design things for others like themselves) as well as the gender issues at large tech companies that have been in the news (I'd recommend reading what Teresa Meng had to say about this at a conference keynote, especially since she's a superstar in her field https://www.eetimes.com/an-engineers-guide-to-sexism/). Also, pragmatically, if there is a difference in grades and test scores between men and women admitted to our CS program, I haven't seen it in students' actual performance once they are here, and I've taught 1000+ students over the past 15+ years.

Third, this is just N=1, but I was not accepted to my preferred undergrad colleges (possibly because of some affirmative action issues), and was only accepted to two PhD programs (Georgia Tech and Berkeley). I'm now a top scholar in my area of research, along with having founded a successful startup. And I still get rejections all the time, for research papers, grant proposals, and awards. In fact, talking to a lot of my fellow professors, they all have stories about significant past failures. One even has his letter of rejection from CMU's PhD program posted on his door.

Yeah, your situation bites. Give yourself a few days to process things, then dust yourself off and get back up to figure out what you're going to do next. You're going to get knocked down a lot in life, and (systemic issues aside) a big difference between people who can really make it and those who don't is being able to deal with that failure and keep moving forward. Also, keep in mind that really good scholars will still succeed regardless of where they go for undergrad. Take a look at the undergrad schools of various successful folks in CompSci, you might be surprised. And if PL is what you're really into, grad school will matter far more than undergrad.

And last, I'd also recommend this article (below) from New York Magazine, asking about why success for Asian-Americans tends to end after school. There's a lot of raw anger in the writing, but I think it will resonate with you, and hopefully give you some good food for thought. https://nymag.com/news/features/asian-americans-2011-5/

Good luck!


It's always cool to see all the interesting people that are on HN. I imagine without this platform, unless I went to CMU, I'd probably never get the chance to even ask you this question.

I agree with you that having some method to recognize those who have faced systemic obstacles and overcome them is extremely valuable, especially when considering how these things are pretty much impossible to quantify purely through something like GPA or test scores. What are your thoughts on affirmative action based on income rather than ethnicity in light of this?


> Second, as an Asian-American myself, I have some mixed feelings about affirmative action, but over the years have leaned more towards it. One reason is that grades are a useful predictor but only one of many of how well people will do in university and in life. Take a look at Terman's Termites, and how his testing of young students missed future Nobel Prize winners, and how many of the termites just ended up being average. Another is equity issues. There really are underrepresented minorities that have overcome a lot given where they started, but don't have as high test scores.

I think what's been discussed so far is that AA ignores the background and full spectrum of personal quality. It's not about whether or not people without necessary resources should be evaluated based on their environments.

The problem is that AA solves the problem lazily based on race.

AA is both ineffective in solving the problem, and unfair to many people, especially asian americans.


good scholars will still succeed regardless of where they go for undergrad. Take a look at the undergrad schools of various successful folks in CompSci, you might be surprised.

I certainly was when I started to pay attention around the office. Brilliant people, advanced degrees from top schools... and I had never even heard of half of the schools they had attended for undergrad.


I'm a half asian who went to northeastern (a while ago, it wasn't that hard to get in at the time and was more of a backup for me). Similar academic profile. My essay was pretty dumb in other ways and I think that hurt me in getting into other places. But I would have been very very apprehensive about writing something about watching anime and not having an intrinsic enthusiasm for things.

That sounds like it triples down on the stereotypes you're frustrated with being perceived as, but more broadly I think they're basically looking for people who demonstrate self confidence and strong enthusiasm for something productive (the team player aesthetic). This trend is going to continue beyond undergrad admissions in both the formal and informal introductions.

I wouldn't sweat undergrad as much as you've probably been trained to all your life. You have plenty of additional opportunities ahead.


Private schools are a crap-shoot. Over a decade ago, a small group of us (mixed white/asian) in high school had similar numbers and got rejected at all privates we applied to. Zero issue with the University of California system though which is significantly more objective.


I think colleges have been getting more competitive.


Haha, hello fellow Northeastern student and disciple of Matthias! Lots of interesting things to read on his page.


Your narrow focus on PL may have scared off some schools. Some schools want to produce "well rounded students" who will seek a wide variety of classes. They want to shape a young student.


Hmm, that thought never occurred to me.

I had assumed that having specific interests would help me because I knew exactly what the school had to offer (courses, concentrations) instead of a vague "I want to go to your school because it has good CS" / "I want to go to your school because it is prestigious," where other high schoolers may have difficulty thinking of what to say. However, the admissions officers probably never heard of PL, which hurt me.

But, how is wanting to go to a school because of its strength in PL theory any different from a kid who say, likes AI and applied to a school because it has a strong AI program, or a bio major applicant who's really interested in molecular biology or something? I wouldn't think that people would see these kids negatively. (I'm not trying to argue with you, you bring up a possibility that I hadn't realized and I want to consider it.)


One problem is the competitiveness of the dream. If one is good at computers & math, and wants to go to college to do computers and math so they can contribute more computers and math to society, well the admissions committee mentally sticks them in the oversized pile of computer/math nerds who are all also overachievers at computers & math. And never mind that industry desperately wants these skills, academia is a warped place with its own agendas.

AI/Machine Learning are likely similarly competitive goals currently. No sure about biology, but the connection to medicine probably means it is a similarly problematic choice.

Another big issue could be the reasons behind your plans. Was it an extroverted story of benefiting society with your new skills, or an introverted story of learning about stuff that excites you for its own sake?


For my supplemental essays, I wrote about the importance of PL theory for software engineering, where you want to design programming languages that increase programmer productivity and ensure correctness, therefore leading to less bugs (e.g. security holes) and a benefit to society. I basically tried to appeal to the applied motivation behind PL theory. I don't know if you would consider this to be a benevolent motivation, I mean, it's not reducing inequality or curing cancer or anything like that.


Another problem with overly specific interests is you back yourself into a very small arena. If the math department is accepting 1,000 students but they only have one or two professors interested in PL in the department, you are no longer competing for 1 of 1,000 slots, you are instead competing for 1 of 10 or 30 slots.

It also struck me that you said you wanted to do undergraduate research. Did you mean you wanted to work as a research assistant- or did you say you wanted to conduct your own research...? I don't think the latter really happens. I could be out of date.


Perhaps somewhat ironically, Asians seem to support affirmative action the most: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/25/most-americ...


In my personal experience, when an Asian complains of racism or discrimination, especially because of covid19 attacks, someone always pops up and says that black/Hispanic people have had it worse so Asians shouldn't complain.

I assume Asians support AA through some sort of guilt or unity with the other minorities rather than self interest/self preservation.


You can take comfort in the fact that the most discriminated against group is non-Jewish whites: https://2qkhyt1u78lw1ll02a1kxrzq-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-...


A few comments / suggestions:

1. The admission committees can certainly influence your life, but don’t let them define your life. For the long run the college you attend could be just a small factor and I think it is getting smaller thanks to the internet and open source.

2. The PL area is small and to some extent limited. Your interests and passion could likely shift in the future. Just keep an open mind.

3. Embrace life. Make friends. Build stuff (think open source) and actively participate in the communities. They usually are very friendly to bright kids. You may find out it could be a lot easier to join the top universities or companies in the future when you personally know and work with the professors or experts. You may even find out you can define your life and those universities matter no more to you.


The purpose of college applications is to get admitted. So stop doing things that prevent admission.

In college admissions check any race you want, but don't pick the one that deducts points. And for your last name put CONTROLGROUP. Done.

This applies if your family is White or Asian (my family is both).


I'm a high school senior of punjabi/white descent, and I fully intend to mark my race as Hispanic.

I dont understand the point in putting CONTROLGROUP as your last name, though. Could you explain.


> I'm a high school senior of punjabi/white descent, and I fully intend to mark my race as Hispanic.

Go ahead - it will definitely backfire. I actually could mark that when I applied (I consider myself white, they would consider me hispanic) and I chose not to, kinda gross that you would lie on your application to get ahead of your peers - why not make up an extra-curricular while you're at it?

And wouldn't it make you feel worse to know that you are at a school because you cheated to get ahead?


> I'm also frustrated because most people probably don't know how math really is like. People just see it as nerdy word problems

As far as I can tell, its just bad comedians who do this. But they do it frequently enough that its practically a trope.


Check out this podcast between Jocko and Jonny Kim: https://jockopodcast.com/2020/03/18/221-the-unimaginable-pat...

Do you think that Jonny worried about what his faux peers thought about him in high school? They were equal in age but that was about it. Their opinions could hurt only those who valued them.


It's extremely rare to find someone of your age with this pattern of thought and such a well developed appreciation of beauty and truth. If I were on an admissions committee I would admit you on the strength of this comment alone. One thing you may not know now: you will enjoy a happiness throughout your life, strangely resistant to circumstance, that will elude, and sometimes confound, those around you, because of the bond you have with abstract forms of beauty.


asian-american (49) here. Get over it. The world isnt fair. The world doesnt owe you anything. You may or may not be discriminated against, if you are, it is just another challenge. Be thankful you are not disabled, stupid, dirt poor, or abused. There are many challenges in life and they are all unfair.

Find happiness and learning even through disappointment and failure and you will have a fulfilling life. Life truly isnt about the destination, it is about the journey (success AND failure).

My cousin is an asian american activist and she sees everything through the lens of a victim, don't be a victim. I feel sad because she cant be thankful for what she has, she can only be resentful for what she is missing compared to white people.

My parents gave me the following lessons:

If you see a problem fix it. If you arent going to fix it, then there is no point to complain about it. Some things can't be fixed, move on.

Life is not fair, there is no value to you in being angry about it. There are a million ways life will treat you unfairly. That IS life.

Success <> happiness. True and everlasting happiness comes from within.

You might be discriminated against. Too bad. Life isnt fair

You might have to work twice as hard as a white person to get the same promotion. Do it. You still might not get the promotion. If you have to, leave and help their competitor to do better.

Someone might not want to rent to you because you are asian (not as much of a problem these days). Find someone that will and be the best renter possible. Pay your rent early, fix things that are broken, leave the place spotless when you leave.

There are actually many more, but Im sure you get the gist of it.


Imagine if this was written to another race besides white or asian. Why do you think this ok to say to a fellow asian? Do you not think it's ok to complain about social problems and simply ignoring them if you cannot fix them yourself is the solution? This stereotype you're pushing is the exact problem.


It is blatantly racist, and I believe it should change. But I also believe the "deal with it and work harder" mentality is one of the important reasons why Asians tend to be more successful. My mother always told me I had to work 10 times harder because I am Asian.

It is okay to complain, but remember that we can't fix all wrongs in the world. We don't have time to wait for society to change. We will and have always found a way to survive and thrive.

My parents grew up in the Vietnam war. My mother had to do her homework in the shelters while American planes were bombing her city. My dad comes from a poor village and lost several brothers in the draft. My grandfather his brother fought against the french colonialist.

Despite all this, they don't hold a grudge against the west, and they still look up to western societies. Being a victim forever is not the way for success and happiness, and you will only hurt yourself in the long run. Practice gratitude, keep your eyes open for opportunities and keep hustling.


Hello to a new causality in the endless dumpster fire of deadlocked race relations.

The most toxic radioactivity is at one center of gravity - black and white.

This is a political singularity - all other dimensions will be crushed but before the vortex is a preposterous racial double standard.

If you want to keep your dignity exit and work a blue collar job like me. I'm going to build two sawhorses.


Hi there, friend. I'm Asian American as well, and I remember being in your shoes when I was your age a little over a decade ago. I too also loved programming language theory and very much adored my time studying it in college. What I can do is give you some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that what you're going through now is real. It's unfair, and it's going to hurt. The truth is that you are seeing the effect of a system that means to optimize superficial representation and not the root cause of the problem of income inequality. People are going to game the system. Folks will get in without merit, and folks without merit that should have it will not get in. Worse yet, when you get out of college, these folks are going to have an advantage over you in the early phases of their career. They'll get undue (even insulting, if you think about it) attention for their racial background, and generally have an easy time getting their foot in the door for top tier roles in investing, startup founding, and corporate strategy. The system will, for a while, be capable of giving them affirmative action. But, the unfair advantage ends there.

Beyond just your own experience, think about what that implies. It means that educational institutions that reject meritocracy are going to slowly crumble as they are no longer compete to be the most intellectually rigorous institutions. I didn't go to an Ivy league university, despite the, ahem, very forceful "advisory" of my parents. I instead went to a tiny liberal arts college where I double majored in CS and Music. My college had a mandatory humanities core, so I learned to read and write and be critical and think. I learned not just to research history, but make sense of it. I learned how to make sense of culture, past and present. I learned how to make sense of computation, data structures and algorithms, and get a grounding of the tools I'd use to make elegant solutions to problems.

When I first started my career, I felt hampered by my lack of a name brand education and my Asian American ethnic identity. I felt passed over by investors when I wanted to start a company (although in retrospect, I think that's in part because I, like almost any other startup founder out of college, was not fit to start a company), and I felt passed over by hot startups and big companies for fast tracker career roles. But, something changed about four or five years through my career.

The problems started getting bigger and less clearly defined -- it made sense, as I was getting more senior and the scope of my work was growing. My hunger and desire to push and prove myself kept growing as well. I continued to look in the mirror and ruthlessly try to improve my worst flaws so that I could be more effective and not stagnate. While it didn't happen immediately, one day I realized on the job that these Ivy league educated folks who I used to feel like were miles ahead of me all of a sudden weren't very far ahead of me at all. In fact, it was more often the case that when we were working together, I would be the one taking the lead. I was the one leading the great charges into the unknown. I was the one writing the script, and figuring out how to get the problems solved. And this was just during the work part of it -- things got even more lopsided during the spirited lunchroom barroom debates about life, the universe and politics -- for some reason, the Ivy league educated colleagues (at least those who seemed to derive a lot of their identity from their pedigree) seemed to have a certain rigidity in thought, a certain degree of haughtiness, and a certain inability to adapt and grow. They often couldn't keep up in debates and conversations compared to folks who went to less pedigreed schools but clearly took their education more seriously.

They couldn't make judgment calls and take risks. They couldn't solve problems both quickly and deeply. My work rivalries were almost never with them. The only other folks I had to compete with for top tier performance and promotion were almost always folks like me. Folks who were sharp, who treated their career like a portfolio, who were ambitious, who wanted every project they worked on to be bigger and better than the last, and who would be dissatisfied if that wasn't the case. This didn't preclude the Ivy league educated colleagues, but I realized that just as in the general population, the percentage of Ivy league educated colleagues with that level of ambition was low. I eventually made it to my destination in the startup world (head of engineering a funded startup with a solvent business model and a blank check) at the same speed as them, if not faster. And now, I'm at a top tier big company, and I realize that a lot of them despite their shiny pedigree wouldn't make it here either.

I guess what I'm saying to you is that I agree with your premises but be careful about the conclusions you draw. You are right to note that affirmative action is ethically wrong. But take that observation further and observe that it is also systemically flawed. Whether it is ethically right or wrong, it simply does not work. The real world careers that you end up in have challenges which are so difficult and challenging that students of institutions who engage in these kinds of appearances over rigor (which is a disturbing amount, especially in prestigious institutions) are ill prepared for its rigors and find difficulty succeeding. It's best to understand that the prestige of institutions that used to be synonymous with their educational rigor is no longer coupled to that, and once you have true rigor competing against prestige, rigor eats prestige for lunch every day of the week. So you didn't get into an institution, and you figure it's because of affirmative action? It's rough, but did you get into an institution that will be good enough? Will you learn the skills you need to learn and then learn the rest on the job? Yes. To be honest, the best educational institution in the world cannot remotely compete with the on the job training you'll get from a good mentor at a top tier startup or tech company. So, focus on your habits, your skills, and your own unique identity. You like PL theory and FP, right? That's great! Try to figure out where it's used in the industry. Send emails to researchers. Make comments on social media. Start blogging. Participate in the public discourse. Once you build up momentum there, you'll be your own brand and it won't matter where you go to university (I say this with the understanding that you did indeed get into a good engineering school anyways, as I saw further on doing the thread -- it just didn't happen to be your absolute first choice).

The truth is these days, where you went to college is such a lossy signal by mid career that it may as well not even matter. There are plenty of ambitious go getters from state schools who far out perform folks who went to Ivy league universities by at least mid career, enough that you should just focus on learning how to learn in college (and for that, I highly recommend expanding your horizons a little into philosophy, history, art and science), and learning how to get ahead after college. Don't be intimidated by prestige games. Maybe things will change one day, but for now, there is still plenty of space to make an impressive fulfilling career by focusing on how to find and solving good, hard problems. If you're at all interested in having an expanded conversation on this, let me know. It might be many years later, but I remember exactly how it felt being in your shoes, and there are so many things I wish someone had told me that I just had to figure out myself in my own career.


Identity politics at its finest. Making people lives hard because they aren't in the flavor of the day minority group.


You can write all of the text you want, but it's a political issue and your words are easily ignored. Asians are "safe" collateral in present Democratic policy of affirmative action (racial discrimination) because the former don't speak up. You may even want to consider supporting Republicans when the current president leaves.

That said, your reality for the next four years is going to a school you might feel is beneath you. Fifteen years ago I saw the same thing at my high school: the Whites and Asians went to the top 50 schools, but their similarly-accomplished, more racially-advantaged counterparts matriculated to MIT or Harvard. Let me fill you in what the future will look like for these two groups:

---For you---

+1 year: Classes are relatively easy. You're near the top of your class.

+2-3 years: You continue to do well. You might even take a graduate-level class, which impresses a professor enough to consider you for a research assistant role. You take it.

+5 years: You're either graduated and taking a job with a high tech company out West, or you're matriculating to grad school. If the former, you may once again end up in a company you see as beneath you because many of the top companies practice racial discrimination due to immense pressure to meet diversity goals. If the latter, you likely "move up" to a better school because racial discrimination is less pronounced at the graduate level.

+10 years: You're either on your second or third job if you got out with a B.S., or your first with a Ph.D. Either way, if you ended up at a lower tier company, you have or will soon have enough professional accolades that will propel you into a company whose reputation matches your abilities. At this point, the college effect is all but erased.

---For them---

+1 year: Classes are difficult. The pace is very fast and most of the class is filled with White or Asian students with national accolades of some kind. They're enrolled in "programs" that help retain minorities so they get extra tutoring.

+2-3 years: They either buckle down or, more likely, fall further behind. Counselors recommend taking an easier major like business.

+5 years: If they buckled down, they graduate and get courted by and receive job offers from 3 of the 5 FAANGs. If they didn't buckle down, they're still in school or, if still in their original major, will drop out soon.

+10 years: If they work at a FAANG, they've likely become disillusioned with the day job and have gotten recruited for internal "leadership" organizations targeting minorities. They take a job either as an assistant to an executive or a manager in a non-technical area of the company like business development or diversity. If they didn't buckle down, they've probably dropped out of school and fallen off the career ladder entirely and will have a very hard road ahead of themselves. The college effect never truly gets erased for minorities, just bifurcates them into more extreme winners and losers.


You characterize the woes of the second group as resulting from their purported inadequacy, and not their treatment.

Let's consider a third group: black and Latinx ("racially-advantaged" is just about the most preposterous euphemism I've ever heard) who also go on to those top-50, non-Ivy schools. Overwhelmingly, their fortunes tend to be better described by your second timeline rather than your first, with FAANG replaced by lower-tier companies.

So darker-skinned college students have a harder time; no matter what school they go to, no matter what effort they put in, and no matter what their career prospects are 1, 5, 10 years after graduation, they're worse off then a comparable white or Asian student.

It's heartbreaking that you so fully and accurately recognize the surface level racial dynamics involved in academics and socioeconomic success, but not only completely mischaracterize the reasons they exist, but encourage their perpetuation.


Which schools are you considering?


I've committed to Northeastern. I also got into UMD and Purdue, but Northeastern was the strongest in PL theory, and FP and PL culture influences the undergraduate curriculum through Felleisen's teaching philosophy.


Just a word of encouragement from someone 12 yrs down the line from you: Northeastern PL is a great group. And you seem to have the mindset to get into research, atleast a PhD. PhD admissions are (mostly) purely meritocratic. Take the long-term view. Best of luck!


Yes, but what I'm seeing now (Neuroscience at Stanford), grad admissions stopped taking GRE's or GPAs for admissions and it's all based on research experience and rec letters. This may not be universal yet, but there's a large movement to move away from these metrics in graduate admissions. Having good research experience as an undergrad seems critical now even more than before.


There are multiple ways to get into grad school. One way is to just apply. Another way is to individually get to know the professors, express your interest, and stand out. Professors have substantial pull if there is someone they specifically want.


Boston/Cambridge are beautiful city and you’ll love it there. The whole town is A big college place and you’ll mingle plenty from students in all the schools. A friend of mine from HS went to northeastern, and long story short cashed out plenty from Juul recently. She worked very hard, but There’s a lot of luck involved in life too.

You can make your luck by being open minded to things you don’t know and seeking out mentors. I went to UPenn and confirm the PL GRoup is solid, and the prof in the PL group are really kind people as well. Do you have a particular thing you want to work on in PL?


I want to learn more about HoTT and constructive math, but I probably have to go to CMU to go deep into that.

At Northeastern, I'll probably explore systems programming languages (I know that Amal Ahmed published a foundations of Rust paper) and gradual typing.


Hah I was interested in something similar at one point. The PL community is pretty small, if you go to one of these Haskell hackathons you'll meet plenty of them. There used to be one held at Penn (Hack-phi) but that may have ended. Boston Haskell hackathon is still going I believe, and there's many meetups in NY. So going to these places and meet tons of people is one way to secure your own uck. And I echo what the other person has said, your narrow focus on niche topic may have put you in a harder category. Admission officers have very specific buckets they put you in, in this category you may have been competing against math wizes from abroad.


Holy Christ, your scores would have gotten you into MIT 20 years ago.


SAT scoring was a lot different 20 years ago :)


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This is a very cynical and bad faith reading of the OP. I don’t see how knowing about HoTT or category theory gives one away as an absurdly pre-prepped kid who is shoehorned into academic success by tiger parents. I went to a Bay area high school full of specifically that kind of kid, and cannot think of a single one that knew what curry- was or had heard of prolog. Of course all anecdata. But let me tell you that the pre-prepped kids are not writing about wanting to do type theory research.

It’s a shame because the OP sounds like someone who would thrive at an mit/cmu, but likely got screwed due to an opaque system optimizing for a completely unknown objective (let me be cynical now—-the objective is optimizing us news rankings by only accepting top gpa/sat that have high yield, a subset of overprepared foreign students that will pay full ticket, and a scattering of “african americans” ie wealthy nigerians).

The system is bullshit. The only thing us universities have going for them is the professors and the fact that you can drop by their office and start a research relationship by extending your hand in good faith.


This is a bad-faith reading of the GP, and an awful lot of straw-manning. No one here has said white women have been given a free pass.


Aren't you asking for "affirmative action", just for yourself and not others?

You'll probably say, no I just want equality and at the moment I'm discriminated against, so if we intentionally tilt things towards my group then things will be fair again but that's what they'd say too.

How can you be sure that whatever social movement and/or beaurocracy that gets invented to fix your problem doesn't then cause someone else (women, Russians, "white" people, older people maybe) to be unfairly overlooked (or even just perceive themselves to be overlooked) and complain that actively helping you must surely be at the expense of some poor deserving person they know?


Never in my comment did I advocate for policies that give Asians a leg up, and I'm curious to know which part of my comment you interpreted that way. I just want to be judged for my merits and passions without regard to any assumptions that come with my race.


Wow. So, you think equality is subjective?

Like when slavery was banned, was it "intentionally tilt things towards African americans then things will be fair again but that's what they'd say too"?


This is typical, Harvard did it for Jews back when they were discriminated against. In order to discriminate "tastefully" (Ivies are all about "is it a good look"), Harvard did a population study and learned that most Jews came from upstate NY. Thus began Harvard's mission of broadening access to elite education to the Midwest and Pacific West, where there are almost no Jews.

While in college, I heard a very fascinating story of how Harvard retaliated when confronted with evidence. There is a linguistic professor at Penn who went to Harvard and is Jewish. While at Harvard in the 70s, he suspected discrimination and broke into the admissions office, unearthing documents proving his case. Harvard responded by sending him to Vietnam, presumably to die. Long story short, he lived to tell the tale. After the war, he went to MIT and received a doctorate. He has all kinds of interesting stories about 'Nam too, but this Harvard story is really something else.

All Ivies/Stanford discriminate, they can fill the school 10x over with Valedictorian/Chess champions if they want to. But they have to mindful of their corporate customers as well, companies want a diverse menu of people. Some studies have been done around how they discriminate now: presently the tasteful instrument of discrimination is extra-curricular activities. You'd be hard pressed to find too many Asian Americans doing Lax or Crew.

Remember, these are private institutions so strictly speaking, they could do what ever they want (Disclosure: I am Asian). The bigger issue is that many people do have to go to one of these colleges for upward mobility. These schools are like oligopolies that have taken captive the American dream.


> hard Pressed to find asian americans doing lax

Stop with these generalizations. I personally know plenty of asians who played Lacrosse in high school, myself being one of them. Some of these people even committed to play in college. The stereotypes just aren't true, go to a lacrosse game on the west coast.

Yes, these colleges help, but stop thinking of college as the thing that defines your life. It can define your life, but it definitely doesn't have to.


And I rowed in college, and yes met a few Asian people who played lacross in HS. All of these generalizations are true at some point in time. As people pick up on these criteria and start competing for them, the admission office will change the "measure of well-roundedness" again. That's the point I'm trying to make,"wholistic" judgement is arbitrary and well within their control, that's one source of power.

And not it doesn't define your life, but in some parts of the world it does give you a leg up.


Many Asians look up to the Jews and see them as an example. The Jews had been discriminated for centuries through out the world, and are one of the most successful minorities.


Eh, I don't think these schools offer much upward mobility given their extreme cost. Almost all their students should be better off financially going to community college for 2 years then transferring to state school 2 years. These colleges are more so about brand, it's an elite,an Ivy, a Porsche.

Is a Porsche 911 the car offering the best mobility? Surely its fast, but at the end of the day, a thousand other cars get you to the finish line nearly as quickly for a fraction of the investment.

If you save 200k on education costs and it grows reasonably in the stock market, you'd need Harvard to make a diff of over a million dollars by age 45-50, as that's what your investment will do in the market.


Harvard does not cost $200k for families with income less than $100k. And even if it does, the network you make at Harvard and the doors their brand opens is well worth it in the long run.

There is a reason it’s so competitive, and it’s because it’s so competitive that it’s so worth it. Same for MIT/Stanford/CalTech/etc.


These schools feed graduates into very lucrative companies.

Investment banks, hedge funds, private equity, management consulting, white-shoe law firms, and the list goes on. Sure - most of these don't say "We only want to hire top ivy-league grads", but they a good chunk of their recruiting happens at those school. Most firms have gotten better at casting a wider net - but having the "correct" background does still pay off, if you plan on a career in those places.


Management consulting firms don't recruit from most state schools.


> that most Jews came from upstate NY

A little OT, but does anyone have any good resources on this (online or even books), i.e. abut the Jewish presence in upstate New York? I've never been to the States and as such I had though that the strong Jewish presence would have been limited to city areas, looks like upstate New York is mostly comprised of small towns and such, that's why I'm curious about the communities in there. I tried google it but I can only get resources about Jewish presence in New York City.


Your story is missing a piece. Harvard is not in the military chain of command. They weren't able to send people to die in Vietnam.


There's more to it than that. The professor was actually kicked out and then subsequently drafted. The way he tells the story, there is a clear implication that had he stayed, he would have avoided the draft.


What is this linguistics professor's name?


It must be Prof. Mark Liberman.


Uh I feel bad outing the man on HN consider it's really his story to tell. But I think if you guys are motivated enough, you'd be able to track his name down :)


Oh, I thought it was part of his public story. Never mind. I'm happy to let it lie. I'll look it up myself. It probably lost some details in the telling because I can't see how Harvard can send someone to Vietnam.


In 1925, Jewish students at Harvard made up 28% of all attendees. President Lawrence Lowell brought into existence policies to judge individuals on character after failing to limit the number of Jewish attendees to his school. Once these policies were put into action, Jewish attendance at his school declined, eventually dropping below the 15% limit he was originally seeking to put it into existence.

It wasn't that the Jewish people were being discriminated against. They were just not as well-rounded, lacking in character and that savoir faire that came so easily to anyone who was not Jewish. It may have been genetic or cultural. I guess we'll never know. Hard to tell why they just couldn't pull it off.


Letting admissions "judge individuals on character" is a way to selectively reject applicants that do well on other, well-defined, metrics...


It's the "cultural fit" of academic institutions.


> lacking in character and that savoir faire that came so easily to anyone who was not Jewish.

Well done. I thought you were serious until that bit about savoir faire.


Or, it may have been like how orchestral directors are completely motivated to recruit the best musicians. And, they will strongly tell you and themselves that gender, ethnicity, etc... are irrelevant. All that matters is how well you play. And yet, somehow if the people selecting the recruits are cut off from information that let's them determine the gender of the recruits, suddenly female musicians are selected at a much higher rate by the same directors!

I would be amazed if 1925 Harvard physically cut of their recruiters from knowing which students were Jewish.


Wasn't that study mostly debunked? My understanding was that journalists took some inconclusive data and blew it out of proportion and it became a self-perpetuating meme, disconnected from the original source.


Yes it was: https://reason.com/2019/10/22/orchestra-study-blind-audition...

Also no: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-11-02/that-b...

Either pick the source that best fits your pre-existing bias or do your own study.



I am hoping for my own sanity this is sarcasm :)


It's always so frustrating to see how elite colleges get away with such brazen racial discrimination. Where are the alumni orgs speaking out about this?

I wonder how much of this is rooted in the desire to protect their own kid's chances of admission vs loyalty and the desire to protect their academic "brand". Either way, I don't forsee them fixing this any time soon,

Unfortunately, the Harvard brand seems ingrained in the national consciousness as synonymous with top-notch. So just not applying in protest wouldn't serve the students, especially when other schools do the same thing. I almost wish that Asian Americans had their own equivalent of a prestigious HBCU like Spelman or Howard. It would help siphon off some of the talent from Harvard and the like and probably be an excellent institution in general.


Luckily we do. They’re called the University of California system. At least California banned affirmative action in the 90s.


> UC may choose to advance goals like diversity and equal opportunity using a broad range of admissions that are not based on an individual’s race or gender. For example, holistic review in admissions considers income level, first-generation status, neighborhood circumstances, disadvantages overcome, low-performing secondary school attended, and the impact of an applicant’s background on academic achievement.

these things are highly correlated with race, however.


There's nothing wrong with recognizing that people in disadvantaged situations face greater difficulties in overcoming systemic obstacles. Being able to overcome these factors are actually generally a very strong signal in determining potential of future success.

This is why affirmative action in of itself is not a wholly bad thing. It's just that using ethnicity as the primary proxy is worse at generating a strong signal as compared to

> income level, first-generation status, neighborhood circumstances, disadvantages overcome, low-performing secondary school attended, and the impact of an applicant’s background on academic achievement.


> I wonder how much of this is rooted in the desire to protect their own kid's chances of admission vs loyalty

Certainly, legacy & athlete admissions could be reduced more in order to lessen the discrimination against Asian-Americans. That said, affirmative action also means that white people are slightly underrepresented relative to the population at institutions like Harvard, so I think it is not mostly a desire to protect one's own kid.


Look on the bright side. As top-tier universities continue to desecrate themselves further, they'll lose their signaling power. Soon it'll be just another luxury item, like a Louis Vuitton bag or a bottle of vintage wine (to an extent, it already is - think of the CEO failsons like Jared Kushner).


Here's what annoys me. This analysis is showing that race-based factors are being factored into "personal ratings" and in how rec letters are being interpreted etc. Just make there be an overall admission penalty for being Asian and release the exact level of that barrier like they do for med school admissions. You can see for med schools exactly what the average GPA and MCATs needed are for white, black, Asian, Latino, etc. Stop trying to hide it in obviously discriminatory ways like lowering people's personal ratings. Just make an affirmative action penalty without perpetuating stereotypes about Asian American applicants being math-loving robots with no other well-rounded characteristics.

What annoys me even more frankly is that the burden for fixing centuries of institutional racism and discrimination apparently needs to be born by hardworking immigrants and children of immigrants, not the people that most directly benefitted from generations of injust social structures. Legacies are OK, and the percentage of students at ivy league schools from the top 1% can be sky-high, so rich wealthy white students with connections and successful parents don't have to sacrifice anything. Legacy admissions, a structure explicitly created by many schools to keep out Jewish students[0], is OK because "school spirit" and increased donations. People that benefit from generations of inequity totally deserve their spots at these schools. However, the hardworking student who's a child of immigrant parents, without connections or networks, parents working in everything from laundromats to tech jobs building generational wealth from the ground up? Students who studied hard to get good grades and do everything the admissions officers could want? No, they have to sacrifice their admissions to fix the legacy of slavery. They have to pay the price and are discriminated against compared to white folk. What a brilliant way to breed lateral violence between minorities and create a system that continues to perpetuate classism and racism while pretending that keeping out a deserving Asian student in favor of a rich white student is helping a disadvantaged black student.

[0]https://www.businessinsider.com/legacy-admissions-originally...


This was one of the most depressing charts https://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/medschool.pn...

if you're asian, your chance of being accepted to medical school is 1/8th of black in lower score zone. 1/8th.

You can have the highest GPA and MCAT. Your chance of getting in is still lower than black with lowest GPA and MCAT.

I don't know if the stats are adjusted for schools applied, but still quite an eye opening chart. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. It's bad.


The thing with med school discrimination is, I almost don't mind. There's no blatant hypocrisy with legacy admissions. There is a genuine medical reason to have more black doctors having to do with trust of medical professionals. There are barriers faced by black applicants that are not faced to the same extent by asian applicants. And, the med schools are very clear about what those thresholds are and what that difference in rate is. I can understand that there's a combination of people that look like XYZ wanting doctors that look like them and that there's discrimination faced by XYZ that needs to be factored in (XYZ being black, latino, native american, etc) making that individual with a lower score a better future doctor. And, results in the long run show that people admitted on affirmative action don't necessarily fare worse. The med school process never seemed as unfair as the undergrad process, even though the med school process is just as biased. And, we're not asked to sacrifice a spot for some rich white kid who is only getting in because of connections. Not in med school, where qualifications actually do matter and there's no such thing as a gentleman's C for the legacies.


I just don't get the downvotes. Black Patients go to doctors and say doctor I think I need help doctor goes "You're just whining" then the patient dies. https://newsone.com/3903170/black-women-call-out-hospital-mi... that's just the story from this year. They've had at least 2 in the last 3 years.


+1. You're bringing me around.

My wife goes to an Asian hairdresser for all important hair work because they better understand her hair. Nothing wrong with that. So why not the same for doctors?


if you wouldn't mind providing sources regarding long term performance, I'd actually love to read it so that I can have more balanced view.


On the importance of having black doctors: https://www.nber.org/papers/w24787.pdf

The long term equal performance thing is less clearly demonstrated, justice scalia for example had a very strong belief otherwise. Here's a perspective on it from the no difference side (i'm sure you'll have already read the other versions of the argument): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/12/1...

I'm more convinced by the need for black doctors than the performance argument personally. If having a black doctor for a black community leads to better health outcomes because people trust doctors that look like them (with good reason, unfortunately, things like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment have not been forgotten), then medical outcomes are medical outcomes. If their race, in that case, makes them a better doctor for that community and that community needs more doctors to address large health disparities, then that in and of itself is a type of performance metric that's important. I don't like that that's the case. I'm obviously biased since i'm asian and I'd very much like higher admit rates. And I'm idealistic in thinking race shouldn't matter in administering medicine. But that's not the world we live in yet. And it's not just from the patient perspective, a different sort of cultural understanding and empathy from the doctor also helps them practice, which their race or gender can provide.


>And it's not just from the patient perspective, a different sort of cultural understanding and empathy from the doctor also helps them practice, which their race or gender can provide.

this is the biggest factor i think personally (though i'm not a doctor) - i imagine it's very hard to treat people effectively if you're not intimately familiar with their circumstances.


https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/workforce/interactive-data...

5% of doctors are black. similarly hispanic. 17% are asian.

what infuriates me to no end whenever affirmative action comes up is how people refuse to admit just how far behind black and hispanic communities/people are in the united states[1]. and instead of people focusing on the real villain (white supremacy) they pit minorities against each other. the solution isn't to take spots from slightly less qualified[2] black people - the solution is to take spots from overprivileged white people. but that's of course unfathomable right? just like it's unfathomable that instead of cutting welfare programs to pay for some sort policy we increase taxes.

[1] just look at this it's literally a fucking order of magnitude difference: https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/fiscal-fact/median-value-wea...

[2] what does it mean to be "qualified" for undergrad degree anyway.


Worth noting that white people are also underrepresented relative to share of population among elite colleges.


Part of the reason that those numbers aren't explicitly or obviously available is due to the tenuous legal nature - while it may technically be legal, quotas certainly aren't - so better to obfuscate a bit.

I'm not sure the "personal ratings" were an intentional way of enacting affirmative action here, I think that was actually more a product of racist alumni interviewers.


The paper actually mentioned that alumni interviewers tended to give asian applicants personal scores that were better than what the admissions officers gave them (page 5 first paragraph). Which I personally find worse. The student does their best to prepare for the interview to represent who they are as a multifaceted individual. The interviewer that actually meets the student and talks to them gives them a high personal rating and shows that these students are actually not stereotypical math robots. Then the admissions officers lower those personal ratings, negating the work the students did for the interview (and essays and the truth of who they actually are) to find a way to get their admissions statistics to work out. They're discarding the students, the interviewer, rec letters from teachers that knew them well. And, they're doing it in a blatantly racist way that perpetuates deeply harmful stereotypes. An "Asian: -10 points" line would be less damaging than this. We have to live with these stereotypes, we have to see them be perpetuated as we fail to pass "holistic" application processes, we face these barriers in employment, in getting promotions to management, in every step. As you can tell, it really pisses me off, and hey, maybe you are right and it is just actual racism that's seeping through instead of a way of burying affirmative action ratings. I'd almost prefer that - plain and clear racism rather than a perversion of affirmative action (something meant to help end structural inequality) in a way that perpetuates racism.


I agree that schools should have a "-10 Asian" line rather a "character" line where Asians are deemed to have poor character.

Now action.

Here is how we can use EXISTING LAW to fix this. First, cause schools to send admissions scores with full details to students (via a regulation, policy, or an admissions employees union). Next have students stipulate that all materials they receive will be published -- effectively making the school sending it an act of publication.

Now argue that an improperly low "character" score is "defamatory" and "harms" the applicant.

You have now met the burden of proof for libel in Pennsylvania https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?...


> Next have students stipulate that all materials they receive will be published -- effectively making the school sending it an act of publication.

Your genius strategy fails at this point - sending records in response to a FERPA request isn't a publication, unless I get to sue my school for the hypothetical D I got in my transcript after I publish it online.


e: removed because I'm not sure if what I stated was factually accurate


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And other schools that provide an elite education and prestige all also discriminate in the same way. This case isn't just about Harvard, it's about discrimination against Asians in general. Would be wonderful if the rest of the ivys, stanford, carnegie, vandy, emory, northwestern, the UCs, mich, illinois, purdue, gatech, your local state school, and so on all didn't have legacy admissions and didn't discriminate against asians. But they do. Very few schools (MIT and hopkins come to mind) with that level of prestige and ability to unlock the doors that affirmative action is supposed to equalize access to don't have legacy preference and underhanded discriminiation the way harvard does it. They're not an outlier.


Sorry, but I don't believe that top-notch Asian-American students have any trouble getting into an excellent school, unless they aim for only one in particular and assume that not getting into that particular school is a failure.

If Harvard wanted to, it could require perfect SAT scores, straight-A GPA, and whatever other concrete objective criteria it wanted and STILL have far more students applying than it can accept. They could then use a lottery to select students. But they don't do this. No school does this, even if they could.

Elite schools aim for a well rounded student body. This includes even making room for students that show promise but don't meet the usual criteria. It includes legacy admissions, it includes a number of foreign students who pay full tuition, it includes underrepresented minorities. It includes "unicorn" students of all races who have excellent academic records.


It’s not just about top notch students it’s about all of them. If the top can’t make it, who can?

It’s also about pushing down one race unfairly


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The comment you're replying to also really helps push that "Asians are just single-minded and only care about Harvard" stereotype as well. Ironic since the comment that poster was replying to was about college admission in general, and they fixated on the harvard aspect.

We're "model minorities." We get discriminated against and then get used as examples for those in power to discriminate against other minorities. It's a system where everyone has been convinced that true meritocracy (which is not incompatible with affirmative action when you control achievements for the background of the student) can only be achieved through lateral violence where Asians win and blacks and Latinos lose, all the while those who benefitted most from a legacy of colonialism and oppression can't lose. Let's also not forget that of the white students at these elite schools, wealthy whites are greatly overrepresented, leaving poor deserving whites to fight for scraps as well (look at the data in the article on admission rates after discarding legacy admissions). So another form of class-based oppression can breed there in the guise of race-based rhetoric where again for Asians to be treated properly, even if on paper whites would give up seats, it's the ones who are also fighting to get in on merit and are discriminated against by a classist (as opposed to racist) system. Divide and conquer.


Asian American itself is an interesting (and quite arbitrary) category. It perpetually fascinates me what is considered "Asian". East Asians are undeniably lumped in. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who considers Chinese/Korean/Japanese not Asian. SE Asia as well. South Asian (i.e. Indian, Pakistani, Bangla, etc.) ditto.

But the moment you cross this devious little Bactrian border, you start getting more and more pushback upon being labeled Asian. Talk to someone from Georgia or Armenia, or even Israel (yes, Israel is in Asia), and they'll quickly tell you that no, they're not Asian. Except...yeah you are.

One could make an argument that well, they're culturally European. I don't buy that. If you're in Asia and then your culture is Asian culture by definition. Of course nobody goes by that metric. So how do people determine Asianness? My estimate is that they do it by otherness. I.e. Asian culture is that which is not European or at this point American-European. A neat corollary to this is that Asianness is associated with a lack of social capital. Hence the insistence on not being Asian that you face in Central and Western Asia.

Which ties itself neatly into this problem. Asian-American as a category is borne out of otherness. It's that which is not European or American. And it makes sense that this group would face trouble in getting cultural, if not financial acceptance.

What to do about this? Well one thing not to do is to lash out at other people who are struggling to gain social or financial capital. Black and hispanic people are not our enemies here. A society that does not acknowledge the damaging effects of racism in its institutions and in its culture will not be a society that is beneficial to Asians.

I'm not sure what the solution is to college admissions. I don't think anybody does. But I'm adamant that it should not be used as a tool to divide minorities.


Excellent point. Asian Americans form an extraordinarily heterogeneous group, spanning all areas of socio-economic status and access to opportunity. Race is an imperfect proxy for what affirmative action attempts to do, which is to normalize circumstantial variables to better assess an individual's potential in the context of his or her environment. Several natural questions follow: 1) what other applicant characteristics better map onto what affirmative action tries to achieve? and 2) if we concede that self-reported race or perceived race is not the right characteristic to adjust for, then how do we create a truly race-blind application process?

Speaking as an Asian-American alumnus of Harvard, I will say that the conversations I've heard in the community are mixed, even among Asians. Most people are aware that discrimination against Asians is a real problem, though they do not believe affirmative action as a principle is at fault; rather, its implementation is imperfect and not nuanced enough. Adding to this debate is the complex piece of how legacy students are treated by admissions, what role money/wealth plays independently of affirmative action, and the overall autonomy and goals of private institutions. And in the end, to what extent should private and public institutions be held liable for how they achieve their diversity goals, and how do you balance this with fairness toward applicants?


Income level seems like a better proxy for overall circumstances than race. Yet discriminating against wealthier customers would inflict damage the university's bottom line.


Around these parts, Asian most readily conjures either far east or south. The other option is not simply european, but near East / middle east and central Asian. Though middle east is predominately associated with Arab, there's also plenty of other such as Egypt, which is technically in Africa.

Generalizations are useful for generalizations. We should remember that, and abandon them when dealing with individuals.

If we want to help the impoverished, then do so. No need to introduce race into the mix, or erroneous assumptions about how race affects a person's character or finances.


I mean, perhaps we should ask the people who enslaved black people, or redlined districts specifically and solely for white anglo-saxon protestants, or segregated schools, or destroyed prosperous black communities—perhaps we should ask them about introducing race into the mix. The reason for policies dedicated to underrepresented minorities is that they were underrepresented for very clear, very egregious reasons.

I'm not a huge fan of the "not introducing race" argument because it purports that the person who is attempting to correct the historical disenfranchisement is somehow the first person to bring race up. When in reality the emphasis on not noticing race is a recent phenomenon.


Do poor black people deserve more help than equally poor brown, yellow, red or white people?


If the goal is an equal playing field, yes. There are significantly more barriers to entry in America for a poor black person than an equally poor white person. Housing, education (especially that which is immediately tied to where you live), employment, and policing all feature systematic and cultural discrimination that have a measurable effect on outcomes.


> A neat corollary to this is that Asianness is associated with a lack of social capital. Hence the insistence on not being Asian that you face in Central and Western Asia.

Can you elaborate on that a bit? I am from Central Asia. Kazakhstan, to be exact. I am not sure Kazakhs deny they are Asians. In America, I am "some sort of Chinese person" which I am totally cool with as I don't expect an average person (anywhere in the world) to be worldly.


the subdivision of earth in continents is suboptimal for grouping humans by resemblance. for instance humans around the Mediterranean sea are the same, even though they are on 3 different continents


So apparently Asians are supposed to be a model minority? But at the same time clearly not "model" enough for Harvard admissions? I believe the limited and idealized perspective of which Asians-Americans are viewed serves as a method of placation, making it harder to detect discrimination and racism. I'm trying to become aware of the benefits as well as drawbacks of this status, and I'm not sure what Asian Americans think about this as well.


The assumption underlying these arguments against Harvard's admission is that GPA/SAT scores represent merit and that any deviation from the distribution of GPA/SAT scores in admittance is unjust discrimination. But this is missing what is at stake for Harvard. 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 GPA/test scores past a certain point.

But this isn't even mostly about leadership potential. It's about the social environment that makes it so people with certain traits will more likely rise to leadership positions in society. Power concentrates not by merit, but through complex social and cultural factors, and race is very politically relevant. Existing institutions and cultural factors will favor a white Harvard graduate over an Asian graduate becoming a leader of some political institution. So in service to Harvard's goal of having the next generation of leaders in society go to Harvard, they are correct to bias their admissions towards whites (and blacks, hispanics, etc).


> "But this is missing what is at stake for Harvard. Harvard wants to increase its prestige, and it does so by having future CEOs, Senators, and Presidents go to Harvard."

Well now, let's examine that.

-Do Asians not have renowned businesspeople and CEOs? The past and present CEOs of Toyota, Alibaba, Sony, Foxconn, Nintendo and other Asian corporate giants demonstrate that this is not true.

-Do Asians not have great heads of state and other statesmen? Naming any individual is likely to be contentious but it's clearly false say that Asia has had fewer great heads of state and politicians across its millennia of history than the West.

-Do Asian not have great minds, whether artistic, scientific, or otherwise? Judging by the STEM (e.g. TSMC, Sony) and artistic output (e.g anime) of Asia, no, that's self-evidently not the case as well.

Thus examined, there is no justification for the suggestion "future CEOs, Senators, and Presidents" are less likely to be Asian and so the above statement becomes apparent for what it is: an attempted justification for racism.

If anyone is still not persuaded: if a poster had attempted to make the same statement regarding _any_ other minority, gender, or religious group, ask yourself what would have happened to that post?


To be clear, the prestige of Harvard derives from being the institution that forces American political and business leaders.


So, you are suggesting that Asians' drive and capability in Asia would vanish for Asian-Americans in the United States? That too is immediately disproven based on the number of highly successful Asian-Americans in the US, such as the CEOs of nVidia and AMD.


I'm not sure what your point is. But no, I'm saying that in aggregate, all else being (mostly) equal, a white American has an easier time becoming a Senator, CEO, or President in America. Whether Asians can be successful in Asia (i.e. where cultural and political institutions are biased towards Asians) is irrelevant to what happens in America.


> "a white American has an easier time becoming a Senator, CEO, or President"

Which is a statement of a racist nature. QED


I don't know what that means. But I'm pretty sure it's a factual statement. So regardless, its relevant to the discussion.


He said “has” not “should have”. It’s an observation. You can prove or disprove but not impose moral judgement.


What the hell kind of pathological justification is that? We are taking the absolution of institutions so far now days. Everything is absolved as ‘makes business sense’.


I made no moral claims in my post. My post was simply to establish the facts and motivations in the case that tend to get overlooked in these discussions. Whether or not institutions should be able to bias their admissions as to maximize certain outcomes, and what criteria for discrimination is justifiable, is what should be debated. These silly semantic arguments that try to paint the facts as racism against Asians or entirely innocent attempts at diversifying their student body are entirely unhelpful.


What is the best metaphor for the phenomena you are describing? Deer season right? We have too many deers, make it open season for them. It’s not discriminatory towards deer, because we’re prepared to do the same for Elks.

Is that the gist of it? Harvard, the great academic Noah’s Ark, two of every race, and nothing more.


Not sure, but the best metaphor for your comment is: knocking down a straw man


That's like saying that you won't hire black employees because your customers are racists who don't want to see n-words while they're shopping.


Sure, I recognize the analogy. But we have determined that economic services are sufficiently critical to override one's right to free association in the context of operating a business. The question is whether admittance to a private educational institution can justly discriminate in their admittance based on race (SCOTUS says yes, presumably with caveats), and what sort of justifications are acceptable. Are the racial biases inherent in society that influences life outcomes across demographics a justifiable criteria? I don't know. But the purpose of my comment was to highlight that this is what's at stake, and this is the debate we should be having.


The larger issue is less actionable than the issue at hand. Point out Harvard’s bias, have them fix it. This is an actionable step in breaking the market preferences of what you suggested in so many words - the white, male, connected, rich Ivy Leaguer that will undoubtedly fit right into a Goldman, ripe for the inevitably bump to head the SEC, or similarly equipped to make a run for Congress or the Presidency. This is something we as a society have discussed ad nauseam, and it’s better to take whatever incremental steps we can than sit here and go ‘gee I wonder what the real root cause of the issue here is? Is society racist?’.

Put the Asians kids into Harvard. They a historically an American scape-goat, and now somehow even in their attempts at uplifting, we found out some stupid ass explanation how it’s fucking up Harvard’s diversity, which I’m willing to bet is still mostly white.


I'm just not sure we should demand Harvard change their admissions to be based on some particular metric. Ensuring Harvard's student demographic matches the demographic of peak GPA and test scores just harms Harvard in the long run while doing nothing to improve the systemic issues in society that lead to institutions like Harvard. Harvard isn't creating business and political leaders, they just won the game of getting future leaders to come to their school. And that's the paradox of this whole thing, a Harvard that's mostly Asian isn't Harvard. Wherever the rich well-connected white males are going will just be the next Harvard. The underlying issue here is systemic and can't be solved by punishing Harvard.


Very true. The non-quantitative client facing jobs at places like Goldman Sachs don’t really need very smart people... they need people who can comfortably speak with and engender trust with the descendants of Rockefellers etc. Right now Harvard is where you get that stamp but if Harvard becomes a place mostly for kickass Asian students to excel in math and computers then the Goldman Sachses will start using a different imprimatur like the right polo camp or similar.


Thank you for making these comments. You get to the crux of the issue. Rest of the threads here are just about expressing outrage and virtue signalling


Did you read the paper?


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