Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower on personality traits, lawsuit says

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Newsmakers

The Johnston Gate at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than any other race on personal traits like "positive personality", likability, courage and kindness, according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed as part of a lawsuit against the university.

In a statement, Harvard said on Friday that a full analysis of the data shows the school "does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans, whose rate of admission has grown 29 percent over the last decade". Women represented 50.1 percent of those accepted; African-Americans 15.5 percent; Latinos 12.2 percent; and Native Americans 2 percent, according to the Harvard Crimson. A category of all others, mainly white students, is 50%.

Harvard said that no statistical analysis could determine all the factors that go into the school's admission process, according to The Times. Harvard also submitted an expert report that said the challengers' personal ratings model did not sufficiently control for such factors as the personal essay, teacher recommendations. Of course, the fear lurking behind all of this is that exposure of these unfair admissions practices could eventually lead to the end of all affirmative action policies in admissions.

Faust said the university's admissions team uses an approach upheld by the Supreme Court, "one that relies on broad and extensive outreach to exceptional students in order to attract excellence from all backgrounds". She has set an October trial date. "Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s".

Harvard, which draws 40,000 applicants each year for 1,600 college spots, scores students (on a scale of 1 to 6, 1 being best) on five basic categories: academic, extracurricular, athletic, personal and overall.

For the class of 2019, for example, more than 8,000 had ideal grade point averages, 3,500 had flawless SAT math scores, and 2,700 had flawless SAT verbal scores.

University officials have painted the lawsuit as an attack on their ability to consider race in admissions, which they say is necessary to ensure diversity on campus.




The suit against Harvard, brought by Students for Fair Admissions, alleges the institution imposes what is in effect "racial balancing" to keep the number of Asian students artificially low while advancing less qualified white, black, and Hispanic applicants.

Blum also was a driving force behind that case, helping Texas student Abigail Fisher sue the university. Blum's group said the public should have access to the records, and the U.S. Education Department weighed in to agree.

Both sides also are sparring over a 2013 internal study at Harvard exploring the racial makeup of the admitted class.

The lawsuit focuses Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

It marks a step forward in a lawsuit that has lasted almost four years and raises implications for many other colleges that, like Harvard, say they consider race as one of many factors to gather a diverse mix of students.

Citing a 2013 analysis by Harvard's Office of Institutional Research, the SFFA said in a federal court filing on Friday that if academics were the only criterion, Asian American students would have made up more than 43 percent of students who were admitted, rather than the actual 18.7 percent.

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