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Harvard Accused of Turning Away Asian Applicants Based on Supposed Personality Traits

Harvard Accused of Turning Away Asian Applicants Based on Supposed Personality Traits

“personal ratings significantly dragged down their chances of being admitted”

The claim being made here is that ‘personality traits’ is basically a loophole for discrimination.

The New York Times reports:

Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Suit Says

Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.

Asian-Americans scored higher than applicants of any other racial or ethnic group on admissions measures like test scores, grades and extracurricular activities, according to the analysis commissioned by a group that opposes all race-based admissions criteria. But the students’ personal ratings significantly dragged down their chances of being admitted, the analysis found.

The court documents, filed in federal court in Boston, also showed that Harvard conducted an internal investigation into its admissions policies in 2013 and found a bias against Asian-American applicants. But Harvard never made the findings public or acted on them.

Harvard, one of the most sought-after and selective universities in the country, admitted only 4.6 percent of its applicants this year. That has led to intense interest in the university’s closely guarded admissions process. Harvard had fought furiously over the last few months to keep secret the documents that were unsealed Friday.


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Yes, interesting problem. I’ve seen discussion about this before. Apparently admissions officers are being overwhelmed by a flood of sameness, hordes of applicants who are essentially indistinguishable. They’ve all studied a musical instrument since about age four … and it’s always either piano or violin. The first Chinese flugelhorn-playing applicant to Harvard will probably get a personal acceptance from President Faust. Ditto for the other extracurriculars … they’re all the same. And admissions types are alarmed, believing they should be administering a university, not a production-line factory or an ant farm. Asian applicants—most notably Chinese, but in the recent past this was characteristic of Koreans more than Chinese—come across as hard-working automatons, all following the same checklist with near-superhuman devotion. Certain schools are on the checklist. After that, certain careers are targeted—those which may require work and dedication, but are almost guaranteed to lead to prestige and lots of money. So Wall Street is out, as too chancy; but medicine is a biggie … though not just any medicine; big bucks with minimal involvement with actual patients is the preference. Radiologist and diagnostician used to be preferred; I don’t know what the latest fad might be.

Not that there’s anything wrong with all this; it’s hardly criminal, or even underhanded. But I can understand why admissions officers might have reservations about the whole thing.

So Harvard doesn’t want the sameness of highly disciplined achievers … especially not those who might end up making a lot of money. Because their alumni office is inundated with donations as it is, and their endowment is already too large. You know, a Harvard degree shouldn’t be mistaken for competency on its own. Apparently, it’s more a guarantee of … what? A little slice of diversity? A unique background? A university’s reputation rests on the accomplishments of its graduates. I doubt Harvard is worried. But if I were Asian, I’d rather crawl over glass than apply to Harvard.

    Granny in reply to CincyJan. | June 16, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Harvard has long been known for passing out A’s like candy. When some professors have been questioned about it the reply is generally “If you’re smart enough to get into Harvard, you deserve an A.”

    Harvard is just an old boy network.

nordic_prince | June 16, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Reminds me a lot of the crap you usually have to go through to get a job these days. Send in your resume and fill out the inane ATS, then — if you’re lucky and the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars — the twenty-something HR twit, who has no clue about what the job actually entails and is therefore in absolutely no position to judge who is qualified and who isn’t, might call you for an interview, either on the phone or in person. But if said twit deems you’re not a good “culture fit” for the company, or you’re “overqualified,” you’re dead in the water right there. Both excuses are essentially ways to discriminate against older workers (“older worker” being defined as anyone over 40).

So, to tie it all together: Yeah, anyone who wants to discriminate will find a barely legal way to do so.

I’ve found that screening processes like this, where they’re rating on “positive personality” or “likability”, are really tests for extroversion in disguise. No surprise, Asians as a group score lower on extroversion than other racial groups.