But even before this scandal, we knew Americans believed the primary consideration for college admissions should be high school grades.
This common belief runs directly against the narrative of Ivy League institutions, and many others, where the trap of identity-based admissions has affected both the highest and lower margins of applicants. However, this belief has reached the point where one ethnic group is being discriminated against simply for being exceptionally talented at achieving high grades.
Affirmative action was designed to provide a remedy to long-standing discrimination allowing schools “considerable deference” in how they select students. This concept of considerations to race and identity in education has been debated extensively in the courts.
These court battles began in 1978 with University of California v. Bakke to Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which may soon make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The latter case is redefining the generational debate about affirmative action. Unlike other cases, which have questioned if students on the margins can be rejected so that diversity may be preserved at universities, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard asks if minority students that excel, can be discriminated against because of their race, specifically Asian students.
Harvard contends that the lawsuit is frivolous as Asians make up roughly six percent of the national population while making up more than 17 percent of Harvard students. Yet Harvard’s own argument is used against it by Students for Fair Admissions, who contend that Harvard’s knowledge of this led the university to discriminate against highly qualified Asian applicants in favor of non-Asian students. Essentially, Harvard’s case is that they have too many Asians.
While schools are granted privilege to foster “equality” in admissions, courts have consistently denied any effort to employ quotas or “racial-balancing” in admission considerations. If the accusations against Harvard are true, it is likely the U.S. Supreme Court will find the university went beyond the law. Regardless, the ruling here will likely have a big impact on future cases involving race-based, university admission policies.
Harvard does make a very good point in its lawsuit; they suffer from an over-representation of exceptionally talented applicants for admission. How awful it must be for them.
Suggesting that some people are just “too good” to be Harvard students could be seen as a symptom of the current times, yet it is more likely this sort of discrimination is a byproduct of the current structure of affirmative action. Diversity in education has proven to be beneficial, but not when the definition of diversity is narrowly confined to the color of skin or the country of origin. When diversity is programmatically enforced by an intentionally vague policy, you can bet actual diversity is not the goal; alterations to student populations based on emotional appeals are.
Such admission policies can be incredibly dangerous to colleges and Harvard has emerged as the face of it. Asian students often outperform white students (and every other race and ethnicity) on academic and extracurricular metrics. This is no secret in the Ivy League community, yet they lag far behind on personal appeals. The mysterious conglomeration of factors, which qualifies some to be Ivy League material and others not, is curiously subjective. And the plaintiffs, Students for Fair Admissions, have made the argument that such policy is inherently discriminatory.
Students, regardless of who they are and where they come from, should be judged by their academic records, their extracurricular accomplishments, and their personal references from school officials/teachers/coaches who know them best, not by arbitrary factors. The result of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard will likely impact admissions policy significantly. Let’s hope it rewards students who apply for admission based on the quality of their records and not the color of their skin or the country of their origin.