What's Harvard's Beef With Asian Students? | Opinion

It's the most recognizable education brand in the world, known for its high academic standards. It's also known for its progressive ideals, one of which is a commitment to minority students.

That is, unless those minority students happen to be Asian.

Harvard, a recent lawsuit claims, is discriminating against Asian students for doing something any ethnic group would be proud of: excelling.

Leave it to modern progressivism to create such outcomes.

How did this happen? It started with a suit brought against Harvard by a group of Asian-American students who claim they were discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity. They have the math to prove it.

"An Asian-American applicant with a 25 chance of admission would have a 35% chance if he were white, 75% if he were Hispanic and 95% chance if he were African-American," an excerpt from their motion concluded.

The lawsuit pointed out that an internal review by Harvard back in 2013 conceded that if only academic achievement was considered, the Asian-American share of the class would have risen to 43 percent from the actual 19 percent, the New York Times reported.

Why the big gap? Did Asian-Americans perform poorly in legitimate non-academic categories? It turns out they had higher scores than any other group in extracurricular activities and alumni interview scores, too.

Some of the gap, Harvard explained, had to do with preferential treatment to athletes and legacy students. But the disturbing part of the equation had to do with more ephemeral parts of their admissions process.

A study of nearly 160,00 student records consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like 'positive personality,' 'likability,' 'courage,'' kindness' and being 'widely respected."

You can't make this stuff up.

If Harvard systematically excluded qualified African American students on such obscene grounds, there'd be a federal investigation. Yesterday.

Harvard refutes the claim. But they won't reveal the inner-workings of their admissions process because they claim it's a trade secret that, if released, would harm them in the marketplace.

But their process isn't the formula to Coke. And given Harvard receives $500 million dollars in federal aid, the university shouldn't be permitted to use such claims to insulate themselves against charges of discrimination.

Which leads any rational person to ask, "What's Harvard's beef with Asian students?"

To be fair, it isn't just Harvard doing this. Selective universities and high schools are engaged in similar practices across the country.

At only 5.6% of our population, Asian-Americans are surely a minority group. One would think that progressives at Harvard—especially in departments like sociology that push the "white privilege" narrative—would make a case study out of them, as Asian students punch so beyond their weight class in this country.

Many are dark skinned. They look different, speak different languages, and come to this country with little but their values, families and work ethic.

Asian-Americans are proof that the American Dream is alive. Their success is proof we're not a nation of bigots and racists looking to thwart the advancement of people who don't look or sound like the white majority.

The Harvard College arms sits atop a gate into Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Forget "White Privilege." Progressive academics should be pushing the "Asian Privilege"—and cultural norms within their communities that drive their success.

Is Harvard guilty of discrimination? One story that ran in the New York Times some years ago illustrated the absurdity of any claims of innocence.

Natasha Scott was beginning her college application journey. A high school senior from Beltsville, Maryland, she had a problem. One she shared on the electronic bulletin board College Confidential.

"I just realized that my race is something I have to think about," she posted, describing herself as having an Asian mother and a black father. "It pains me to say this, but putting down black might help my admissions chances and putting down Asian might hurt it," the Times reported.

Natasha confessed that even her mother urged her to put down African-American.

"I sort of want to do this but I'm wondering if this is morally right?" she posted.

It didn't take long for a response.

"You're black. You should own it."

Then came another.

"Put black!!!!!!!! Listen to your mom."

No one advised marking Asian alone.

So Natasha Scott did what she thought she had to do. But she knew it wasn't right.

"I must admit that I felt a little guilty only putting black because I was purposely denying a part of myself in order to look like a more appealing college candidate," she confessed.

That's the tragedy of slicing and dicing Americans by ethnic and racial categories. The process didn't just pit Natasha against her peers: it pit her against herself.

Harvard—and others—can claim they don't discriminate against Asian students. But ask Natasha, her mom, and those students on College Confidential. They know.

What these academic elites don't understand is that most of us are Nastasha Scott. Most of us are—literally—walking melting pots.

I'm Lebanese, Italian, and German, and my wife is Scandinavian, Irish, and American Indian. What box will my daughter check come college admissions time?

It's sheer folly for her to choose one over another—and sheer prejudice for people at Harvard and other elite institutions to reward her for doing so.

Here's hoping the courts finally call this social engineering experiment by its true name: bigotry.

Preferring one ethnic or racial group over another is just that.

Lee Habeeb is a Vice President of Content at Salem Media Group, and is host of Our American Stories, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

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