Coalition’s Race-Based Complaint Against Harvard Dismissed


The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed the complaint brought by a group of 64 Asian American groups claiming that Harvard discriminated against Asian Americans and other ethnicities during its admissions process.

Last month, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights decided to dismiss the complaint, filed in May by the Asian American Coalition, because a similar lawsuit filed in November made the same allegations against the university, a DOE spokesman told KoreAm by email Wednesday.

That lawsuit, filed by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, may be put on hold due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to rehear Fisher v. Texas, the affirmative action case. Harvard’s lawyers have filed a motion to delay the pending lawsuit until Fisher is decided, the Harvard Crimson reported Wednesday.

Asian American Coalition president Yukong Zhao told KoreAm he welcomes the return of the 2013 Fisher case, in which the Supreme Court previously sent the case back to the federal appeals court that had ruled against Fisher to rehear her arguments. The appellate court last year upheld the use of race as a factor in the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions process.

Zhao said that he is considering expanding the scope of the coalition’s complaint. “There are lots of other Ivy League schools discriminating against Asian American applicants, without their own pending discrimination lawsuits. In this way, OCR can no longer find excuse to dismiss our complaint,” he said by email.

The Asian American Coalition argued that highly qualified Asian American applicants were denied admission to elite universities such as Harvard on the basis of race and ethnicity, despite some applicants having “numerous extracurricular and volunteer activities” or having “achieved a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.” According to the May complaint, some Asian American applicants refused to the check the box for “Asian.”

The coalition’s stance on affirmative action is not representative of all Asian Americans and has triggered statements from a score of other Asian American groups that support affirmative action.

“We support affirmative action policies—which are separate and distinct and do not result in quotas,” said Betty Hung, policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, in an email to KoreAm Wednesday. “Affirmative action simply entails taking into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity as one of several factors in a holistic, individual review.

“What all communities should be working together for is reinvestment in higher education and how to ensure that all students, including the most vulnerable communities, are gaining access to higher education,” she added.

A 2012 poll by the National Asian American Survey found that 76 percent of Asian Americans support affirmative action. The AAAJ and 70 other Asian American organizations filed an amicus brief in Fisher noting that academic qualifications and racial diversity are among a range of factors in choosing candidates, and that Asian Americans “benefit from and contribute to the diverse learning environments.”

The brief stated, “admission rates and average SAT scores for Asian Americans remain constant whether or not race-conscious admissions programs like UT Austin’s are in operation, which refutes any suggestion that such admissions programs impose a ‘penalty’ on Asian Americans and are the ‘root cause’ of a test score gap.”

Opposition against affirmative action as reflected in the coalition’s recently dismissed complaint is not new. Michael Wang, a student at Williams College, filed a complaint against Yale, Princeton and Stanford in 2013 challenging the schools’ affirmative action policies, alleging that the Ivy Leagues denied him admission despite his high class ranking, Business Insider reported.

See Also


Asian American Groups Take Aim at Harvard’s Allegedly Biased Admissions Process 

Harvard and Stanford Debunk Story of Korean Math Prodigy


Featured image via Todd Van Hoosear/Flickr

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