It’s Time to End Racial Preferences in College Admissions

August 14, 2017 Updated: August 14, 2017

The Justice Department of the Trump Administration recently announced its intention to investigate a complaint against Harvard University by 64 Asian-American organizations in May 2015. The complaint alleges the university discriminates against Asian-American college applicants through the use of racial quotas.

For decades, when people talk about Affirmative Action and race-based admission policies, the focus has often been black or Hispanic Americans. Unfair treatment of Asian-Americans in college admission is an open secret: everybody knows it; colleges and universities try to hide it; the governing class ignores it.

Examples of bias are abundant and well documented. For instance, At Harvard, the number of Asian-Americans has been close to 1/5 of the freshman class over more than two decades. The number of Asian-American college-age (18-21) students has grown from 2.5 percent of the student population in the United States in 1995 to 5.1 percent in 2011. However, the percentage of Asian-Americans at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined or even declined during the same time frame.

We also know how well Asian-American students can do without racial quotas. In California, Proposition 209 in 1996 banned the state from considering race or ethnicity in public education. As a result, nowadays 1 out of 3 students in the University of California systems is Asian-American. At super-selective Caltech, 42 percent of the 2016 freshman class was Asian-American, more than 3 times their share in California’s population (13 percent in 2014). Research done by sociologist Thomas Espenshade also indicated if affirmative action were to be eliminated, the acceptance rate for Asian-American applicants would increase substantially.

The campus of University of California in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 11, 2017,(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The campus of University of California in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 11, 2017,(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

All the evidence points to the existence of an “Asian Quota” in college admissions. Ivy League colleges often claim to take a “holistic” approach in evaluation of their applicants. Besides academic credentials, they say, achievements in the arts or athletics, leadership, and overcoming difficult life circumstances all need to be taken into consideration in admission.

In reality, except for GPA and SAT/ACT scores, all other qualities cannot be quantified and directly compared, making the process highly subjective. Additionally, due to the lack of transparency, the admission at the Ivies is essentially a black box. If race or ethnicity has played a role in the admission, no outsider would know.

In fact, the use of a “holistic” review in Harvard admissions was invented to be a prop for racial discrimination. In the 1920s, Harvard College was deemed “too Jewish,” with the Jewish student population approaching 1/3 of the freshman classes. The university wanted fewer Jewish students, but was loath to openly adopt anti-Semitic policies.

So, Harvard abandoned the scholarship-only admissions (which favored Jewish students) and moved to evaluate applicants on a number of qualifiers to reveal their “character and fitness.” The “holistic” review apparently worked. Soon Harvard’s Jewish freshmen were cut back to 15 percent of the student body, and the numbers of Jews as a percentage of the student body did not completely recover until after the World War II. Nearly a century later, the shameful history seems to be repeating itself at Harvard, with Asian-Americans being the new Jews.

Racial preferences are morally repugnant, unjust, and wrong. When Asians first came to America, they worked some of the hardest, dirtiest, and most dangerous jobs, such as mining, farming, and railroad construction. They worked hard, studied tirelessly in schools, and chose to improve their situations through their own efforts, not by government assistance.

Today, Asian Americans are best-educated racial group with the highest incomes in the United States. Apparently, because of their success, they are punished by the Ivies through the use of racial quotas. The practice is an affront to American values and what America stands for, and certainly warrants scrutiny.

DOJ ‘s announcement was pretty sketchy. We don’t know where this investigation will lead. The options for the Trump administration span from administrative actions, such as asking Harvard to open its admission books, to civil rights lawsuits challenging its admissions practices.

No matter what happens, the investigation represents a significant step in the right direction. Asian-American groups challenged the racial quotas before, most recently in 2015, under President Obama, and they were rejected outright.  DOJ’s involvement is a first. In this sense, the Trump Administration just did Asian-Americans a great service.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.