The ethics problem with affirmative action is that its utilitarian trade-off is undeniably unfair and hypocritical. In order to admit African-American students whose test scores and grades would not normally allow them to be admitted to elite institutions, racial preference is used to justify not admitting white students whose credentials would otherwise qualify them for entry. Diversity justifies racial discrimination.
Asian-Americans have long been an embarrassment to this theory. Even though it is another minority group that was the target of institutional and social prejudice in this country, and despite added disadvantages of language and culture, Asian Americans as a group have better test scores and grades than the supposedly privileged whites. Not only does this fact call into question some assumed explanations for the consistently lagging performance of African-Americans, it also threatens diversity policies by raising the possibility of a student body disproportionately Asian American, with whites students being squeezed out at one end by superior Asian-Americans and on the other by Affirmative Action-assisted blacks.
How have universities avoided this problem thus far? They have avoided it by applying quotas to both Asian-Americans and African-Americans. The problem is that the quotas on Asian Americans limit their numbers, regardless of their qualifications.
A group called the Asian American Coalition for Education has filed an official complaint with the Department of Education and Department of Justice claiming that Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth have unlawfully discriminated against Asian-Americans in their admissions policies.
The Coalition is composed of more than 100 local, state and national organizations. In its complaint, the group accuses the schools of “maintaining racial quotas.” Why does it think such a horrible, un-American, prejudicial and racist practice is occurring? Well, at Yale, for example, Asian-American enrollment has declined “despite the number of college-aged Asian-Americans more than doubling since 2011.”
Huh. How odd.
The group argues that this occurs because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”
That would be my conclusion as well.
Obama’s Education Department will not treat this complaint objectively, because like the rest of the administration, it is committed to protecting one race’s rights and interests above all others and the public interest at large. Last year the Education Department dismissed a complaint against Harvard University, deferring to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the race-conscious undergraduate admission policy at the University of Texas at Austin.
The group said it filed the complaint to generate social and political pressure even if the DOE succeeds in blocking it. After a Republican Department of Education started investigating Harvard’s quotas in 1988, the college’s admission rate for Asian-Americans jumped to 16.1% in 1991 from 10.8%. After Asian-American students filed a complaint against Princeton in 2006,that school’s admission rate for Asian-Americans increased to 25.4% in 2014 from 14.7% in 2007.
All just a coincidence, I’m sure. All right, I’m sorry for the sarcasm, but this issue has troubled and angered me for years. The practice is so clearly unfair, and yet its practitioners are so self-righteous about it.
Universities continue to use the same double-talk and denials that have characterized their defense of de facto racial quotas for decades. The schools named in the complaint all said they used a “holistic approach” and evaluated each applicant individually in an effort to build a diverse class. It just happens that Asian-American kids get screwed, but hey, they’re smart; they’ll get into good schools and do just fine.
I hate to be telling tales out of school (literally), but I was involved in Georgetown Law Center’s admission policies for many years. There weren’t formal, written quotas; we just made sure that there was a certain balance of races, and if that meant better qualified students had to go to George Washington because they weren’t the right color, well, it was all for the greater good. That’s what you call “holistic.”
Hilariously, the director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland, Janelle Wong, is quoted by the Yale Daily News as saying that the Coalition’s complaints “can have a detrimental effect on a university’s commitment to racial and ethnic inclusion,” and that “it can be intimidating to be accused of having a biased admissions system.”
Especially if you have one.