Sun, Jun 17, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Harvard University, rights group spar over data in Asian-American bias case

AP, BOSTON

Even though they bring stronger academic records than any other racial group, Asian-Americans who apply to Harvard University face the lowest acceptance rates, according to a study of admissions records filed on Friday by a group that is suing the school over alleged discrimination.

Students for Fair Admissions said Harvard routinely assigns lower scores to Asian-American students in subjective ratings meant to measure attributes such as likability, courage and kindness, putting them at a major disadvantage compared with white students.

Edward Blum, a legal strategist who founded the organization, said in a statement that his group’s filing “exposes the startling magnitude of Harvard’s discrimination.”

Harvard blasted the study in an opposing court filing and submitted a countering study that found no evidence of bias.

In a statement, the school called the lawsuit an attack on its ability to consider race in admissions, which it has said is necessary to gather a racially diverse mix of students.

“Harvard will continue to vigorously defend our right, and that of other colleges and universities nationwide, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions,” the university said.

The studies were filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts as both sides attempted to persuade a judge to end the suit before it reaches trial, which has been scheduled to start in October.

It marked a step forward in a lawsuit that has lasted nearly four years and has drawn the attention of the US Department of Education, which is also looking into Harvard’s use of race in admissions.

Both sides built their cases on six years of admissions decisions at Harvard. The records, for students who applied from 2010 to 2015, are barred from the public, but the dueling analyses offered a rare glimpse into the secretive inner workings of the school’s admission office.

According to the filings, each applicant is assigned a numerical value in four categories — academic, extracurricular, athletic and personal — along with an overall score that is meant to be comprehensive, but is not based on any particular formula.

Ultimately the decision comes down to a committee of 40 people who review each applicant.

For students who choose to submit their race, Harvard has said it is considered as one factor among many that might “inform an applicant’s life experience” and the contributions they will offer.

However, the study shared by the group, which was conducted by Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono, found that race plays a major role and works against Asian-Americans.

The study found that if Harvard relied only on the academic scores it assigns to each applicant, more than half of admitted students would have been Asian-American over the six-year period.

Instead, they made up 22 percent.

The university said the analysis is flawed, because it excludes applicants believed to have an advantage regardless of race, including relatives of alumni and athletes recruited by the school.

Instead, Harvard sought its own study from David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who found no evidence of discrimination.

Looking at a wider pool of applicants and admissions factors, Card found that the effect of being Asian-American was “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

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