Contact: Frank H. Wu, President
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Also Advocates for Increased Diversity on College Admissions Committees
(New York, NY, August 1, 2018) – In the ongoing 2014 lawsuit by Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) against Harvard University, alleging discrimination by Harvard against Asian American applicants, the Committee of 100 (C100) is disturbed by some of the initial discovery findings and calls on Harvard and other top colleges to be fully transparent in their admissions criteria so as to dispel any notions of discrimination in student selection on the basis of race. C100 also urges these same colleges to increase the diversity of their admissions office staff and increase the representation of Asian Americans on these decision-making bodies.
In the SFAA case against Harvard, whether there is in fact an intended policy of discrimination against Asian American applicants at Harvard will be adjudicated in the courts in October. The discovery process thus far, however, has revealed some disturbing initial assessments. On the plaintiff’s end, a statistical analysis conducted of 160,000 student files in the last 6 years of Harvard’s admissions revealed that Asian American applicants outranked all other racial groups on academic achievement (grades and test scores) and extracurricular activities, but consistently scored the lowest of all racial groups in the personal qualities category (including such qualities like “likability”, “helpfulness”, and “courage”). Despite personal interviewers, and teachers and guidance counselors who rated Asian Americans on par with white applicants in personal qualities, Harvard admissions officers – many of whom have never met the applicants – subsequently rated these same Asian Americans lowest in this category. The reasons for this discrepancy in personality scores are currently unknown to the public.
In 2013, Harvard’s own in-house research division, the Office of Institutional Research (OIR), conducted an investigation into Harvard’s treatment of Asian Americans and found that among non-athlete, non-legacy applicants, Asian Americans materially outperformed or performed on par with white applicants in every category except in the personal rating category, and yet were admitted at lower rates than whites every year over a ten-year period. Harvard has deemed this OIR study “incomplete, preliminary and based on limited inputs.’ Harvard’s own expert analysis in the current case, using the same data as SFFA but a different methodology, claims no evidence of discrimination against Asian American applicants, but the university has refused to disclose details for how their admissions officers rate personal qualities and overall scores. That Harvard has further filed a motion to seal any relevant information that may shed light on its evaluation procedures cannot help but fuel suspicions that there is some kind of hidden systemic bias against Asian Americans. To prove conclusively that it does not in fact discriminate against Asian Americans or anyone else, Harvard should be transparent and forthcoming about the criteria it uses to evaluate applications. “C100 strongly supports the inclusion of historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in higher education,” says Frank H. Wu, President of C100. “Full transparency in admissions criteria can be a first step towards achieving these goals of diversity and inclusion.”
This case is especially painful for many Asian Americans because the across the board low personal ratings of Asian American applicants appear to suggest that Asian Americans have less desirable personal qualities, that they are somehow less likable or less helpful than other applicants, and hearken back to anti-Asian stereotypes of being perpetually different, of being less American. Charlie Woo, Public Policy Engagement Chair for C100, notes, “Asian Americans, like all Americans, wish to be treated as individuals with their own unique life experiences, goals and dreams, and not discriminated against on the basis of their race or ethnicity.”
Claims of anti-Asian discrimination in top college admissions dates back to the 1980s and are not just unique to Harvard. The same transparency, clarity and accountability that is being asked of Harvard should apply to other top colleges and universities. Secrecy only serves to maintain unequal and potentially discriminatory systems of review and decision-making and compromise the integrity of the entire higher education system.
In addition to transparency on admissions criteria, C100 further calls upon these same colleges and universities to increase the diversity of their admissions office staff and increase the representation of Asian Americans on these decision-making bodies. Biases towards one group or against another tend to be reinforced when there is homogeneity. “The possibility that implicit bias – preconceptions and assumptions about others based on long-held cultural and racial stereotypes – may play a significant role in college admissions, that admissions officers will rate more highly and choose those who are more like themselves, is very real and should be looked at with greater scrutiny,” Wu noted. “A diverse admissions staff will ensure that a variety of views and life experiences are represented in decision-making bodies, which in turn will help ensure a more holistic review process and a fairer and more inclusive outcome.”
The Committee of 100 is an international, non-partisan leadership organization of prominent Chinese Americans in business, government, academia, and the arts. For over 25 years, the Committee has been committed to a dual mission of promoting the full participation of Chinese Americans in all fields of American life, and encouraging constructive relations between the peoples of the United States and Greater China. www.committee100.org
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(美国纽约州纽约市，2018年8月1日) — 在2014年非盈利组织“学生公平录取 (SFFA)”起诉哈佛大学歧视亚裔美国申请者的案件中，百人会对取证过程中的发现表示困惑不安，并敦促哈佛大学及其他顶尖学府尽量将录取标准透明化，以消除其录取过程给人带来的种族偏见之感觉。百人会还敦促增强这类学府招生部门评审人员的多元性，并增加在这类决策机构中亚裔美国人的代表性。