Discrimination At Harvard - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Discrimination At Harvard

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Posted: Friday, October 11, 2019 2:29 pm

“A good way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

-Chief Justice John Roberts

“Harvard College’s admissions policy aims to evaluate each individual as a whole person,” reads a letter addressed to alumni that I received from the president of Harvard University, Lawrence S. Bacow.

In it, “Larry,” as he signs the letter, reaffirms “the importance of diversity and everything it represents in the world.” What it reaffirms to me, however, is that applicants of Asian descent will continue to be discriminated against in Harvard’s admissions policy because their “personal” ratings, a subjective measure, rank lower on average than those of black, Hispanic and white applicants, even though their academic ratings, an objective measure, on average, rank much higher.

A group known as Students for Fair Admissions brought a lawsuit against the university alleging discrimination against Asian-American applicants in a case that brought this admissions policy to public attention. It seemed like a slam-dunk case. SAT scores and other academic measures are the best predictors of academic success in college. “Personal” ratings, whatever that might measure, probably are not the best predictors of academic success.

However, a federal judge, Allison Burroughs, in a victory for political correctness and a defeat for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, ruled that Harvard’s admissions program passes constitutional muster and that it satisfies the dictates of strict scrutiny. Stricter scrutiny, in my view, would suggest that Harvard discriminates on the basis of race to achieve student body diversity. Perhaps it can now also discriminate on the basis of political affiliation to achieve more political diversity on the university faculty and administration.

Why should this matter to Americans who may have little interest in what it takes to get admitted to the country’s top-rated university?

It matters because the policy is simply unfair in that it clearly discriminates on the basis of race. Persons of Asian descent account for over a third of the world’s population. What kind of a message about fairness does this send to them?

Race should never be a factor in determining who are among the fortunate few that get admitted to an elite and prestigious university. If Harvard wants to achieve a greater degree of diversity, it should do so by targeting its recruiting efforts to attract more of the under-represented groups, but the playing field for admissions should be level. It matters also because our universities are (for now, at least) the best in the world and we need to keep them that way. Asian-American students, for whatever reason, consistently do better academically on average than other ethnic or racial groups, including Caucasians. One likely reason is that education is so highly valued in Asia-American families and academic achievement is strongly encouraged at home. Our elite universities should endeavor to attract as many of the best and the brightest they can, regardless of race, or background or “personal” ratings because America needs their talents to deal with the challenges our nation faces.

Yet, some of our universities continue to dumb down curricula and offer majors that are virtually worthless. Political correctness, speech codes, political activism and student protests continue to stifle debate and discussion on campus and distract from the primary mission of education. Administrative positions sometimes outnumber faculty, professors spend more time writing than teaching and teaching is left to assistants.

Harvard and the other elite universities should focus more on developing students’ minds rather than developing the “whole person”. You don’t have to attend a university to become a “whole person.” Leave that job to the parents and, to use a phrase that I heard a lot at the Harvard Business School, just “stick to the knitting.” In other words, stick to what you are supposed to be best at doing. Hopefully, the U.S. Supreme Court will agree on appeal.

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