Melissa Chen: “In light of the lawsuits, this seems convenient for Harvard. Now they can freely discriminate to achieve desired racial quotas without worrying about any data on file that would make such discrimination obvious to the casual onlooker.”
Harvard University is a defendant in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian applicants. We covered the case at the trial and appeals court levels, where Harvard prevailed. The case now is awaiting word whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case for review.
As detailed previously, one of the primary pieces of evidence demonstrating discrimination was the SAT scores of admitted applicants, as was argued in the Petition for review by SCOTUS:
Harvard uses race at every stage of the admissions process. To begin, Harvard recruits high-school students differently based on race. App.154-56. African-American and Hispanic students with PSAT scores of 1100 and up are invited to apply to Harvard, but white and Asian-American students must score a 1350. JA.577:6-581:20; JA.3741. In some parts of the country, Asian-American applicants must score higher than all other racial groups, including whites, to be recruited by Harvard.
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Harvard’s admissions data revealed astonishing racial disparities in admission rates among similarly qualified applicants. SFFA’s expert testified that applicants with the same “academic index” (a metric created by Harvard based on test scores and GPA) had widely different admission rates by race. App.179-80; JA.6008-09. For example, an Asian American in the fourth-lowest decile has virtually no chance of being admitted to Harvard (0.9%); but an African American in that decile has a higher chance of admission (12.8%) than an Asian American in the top decile (12.7%).
SFFA’s regression analysis showed “substantial” preferences for African-American and Hispanic applicants. JA.2290:22-2291:8; JA.6017. Harvard’s expert, David Card, agreed. If Harvard eliminated racial preferences and adopted no race-neutral alternatives, Card found that the African-American share of the class would fall from 14% to 6% and the Hispanic share would fall from 14% to 9%. App.209-10; JA.6121. In absolute terms, then, race was “determinative” for at least “45% of all admitted African American and Hispanic applicants”—or “nearly 1,000 students” over a four-year period. App.209
SAT scores as evidence of discrimination may be a thing of the past at Harvard, and increasingly elsewhere. In mid-December Harvard announced that because of Covid, it would continue for at least four more years its policy of not requiring standardized tests for admissionts. The NY Times reported:
Harvard will not require SAT or ACT scores for admission through the next four years, extending a policy adopted during the coronavirus pandemic and adding fuel to the movement to permanently eliminate standardized test scores for admission to even the nation’s most selective schools.
Harvard attributed the move, announced on Thursday evening, to the pandemic, which has made it hard for students to get access to testing sites.
But the decision has strong symbolic value, as it telegraphs that Harvard believes it can wade through thousands of applications and admit students without the aid of standardized test scores. It also signals that the university — and perhaps the nation — is one step closer to abolishing test scores from the admissions process altogether.
“Students who do not submit standardized test scores will not be disadvantaged in their application process,” William Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid, said in a statement. He encouraged students to submit “whatever materials they believe would convey their accomplishments in secondary school and their promise for the future.”
Standardized test scores have been a rite of passage for generations of high school students, and a bane of their existence. Supporters say that they provide a uniform way of evaluating students from different schools and different parts of the country.
But critics have long argued that they are racially and culturally biased and do not reflect the true ability of many students, but instead their ability to pay for tutoring. An entire industry of test preparation companies now coaches students through the tests, charging hefty fees.
Harvard’s use of test scores has also been part of a lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against Asian American applicants by holding them to a higher standard than other prospective students. The lawsuit said that as a group, Asian American applicants scored higher than others on measures like standardized tests but were penalized by a subjective “personal” rating.
Why commit to four years now? If Covid really is the reason, why not take it year by year? The obvious answer is that it’s a transition to permanent elimination of standardized testing requirements in order to achieve racial quotas. I explained this in an earlier post:
Harvard University discriminates against students of Asian ethnicity in admissions. That much is beyond doubt.
Harvard is far from alone. Study after study have shown that Asian students need to outperform other students, particularly other non-white minorities, on standardized tests and grades in order to obtain admission.
This is achieved through the use of “soft” factors in admissions decisions similar to those used to cap Jewish enrollment starting in the 1920s. Harvard pioneered the way in limiting Jewish enrollment much as it has pioneered the way in capping Asian enrollment.
The use of these soft factors has been boosted by U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding discrimination in the service of diversity. The argument is that diversity adds to the educational experience, so some discrimination to achieve that supposed educational end is permitted, as long as it’s not too blatant.
This is part of the war on meritocracy, and it will hurt minorities, as Jason Riley wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
More than four decades later, Harvard is still playing these [affirmative action] games, using race as a decisive factor in admissions while pretending otherwise. Last week the school announced that it was dropping its SAT requirement and cited limited access to testing sites during the pandemic as the reason. Don’t believe it. The real goal is to achieve a predetermined demographic composition on campus, and standardized tests make that more difficult. Harvard has joined a growing list of schools that are giving less weight to objective admissions standards—test scores, grades, extracurricular activities—in favor of subjective “personality” measurements like “kindness,” “courage,” “integrity” and “likability.”
This trend is not limited to higher education. The attack on academic meritocracy includes efforts to eliminate honor rolls in elementary school, nix gifted-and-talented programs in middle school, and stop selective high schools from using admissions exams. Oregon’s governor signed a bill earlier this year that suspends high school proficiency requirements. Students in the state will no longer have to demonstrate that they can read, write and do math at a high school level to graduate.
Those leading us down this path insist that they are helping minority students who struggle academically, but it would be more accurate to say that they are giving up on these students. Eliminating the test won’t eliminate the racial achievement gap, because the test is not causing the gap, merely exposing it. How do you help students move forward without an honest assessment of where they stand? Harvard is less concerned with black education than it is with protecting its brand, which is enhanced by exhibiting a racially diverse student body whether or not such a focus is in the long-term interests of black students who are admitted with lower standards and ill-prepared to handle the workload….
Liberal elites continue to believe that most blacks can’t compete on a level playing field, and they don’t mind stigmatizing the ones who can. Thankfully, everyday Americans, of all hues, seem to disagree.
Reactions, including mine, were that this was an obvious ploy to hide the evidence of anti-Asian discrimination:
This is all about Harvard finding new ways to hide its admissions discrimination — "Harvard’s use of test scores has also been part of a lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against Asian American applicants" https://t.co/0tcwiyMHcH
— William A. Jacobson (@wajacobson) December 17, 2021
Abolishing objective standards to enable more aggressive race discrimination. Not hard to understand. American higher education is committing suicide. https://t.co/rnru1KN4T6
— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) December 17, 2021
It's fucking racist to say that black people can't be expected to take the SAT/ACT the same way a white or Asian kid can. The tests are not "racially biased." I resent and reject this completely. https://t.co/Chp7atcP1m
— Coleman Hughes (@coldxman) December 18, 2021
Are we just going to pretend Harvard eliminating the SAT isn’t anti-Asian hate?
— Peter Savodnik (@petersavodnik) December 18, 2021
In light of the lawsuits, this seems convenient for Harvard.
Now they can freely discriminate to achieve desired racial quotas without worrying about any data on file that would make such discrimination obvious to the casual onlooker. https://t.co/Hk2xW8V7Je
— Melissa Chen (@MsMelChen) December 17, 2021
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