Asian Americans Sue Harvard Over Racial Discrimination

A coalition of 64 Asian-American groups is accusing Harvard University of discrimination in their admission process.

The groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, alleging that the university’s use of race is unlawful.

Part of the complaint read, “Many Asian-American students who have almost perfect SAT scores, top 1 percent GPAs, plus significant awards or leadership positions in various extracurricular activities have been rejected by Harvard University and other Ivy League Colleges while similarly situated applicants of other races have been admitted.”

Harvard was quick to fire back with a statement from Harvard’s general counsel Robert Iuliano.

“We will vigorously defend the right of Harvard, and other universities, to continue to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions.”

According to the Guardian, the attorney pointed to the 1978 Regents of University of California v. Bakke Supreme Court decision that upheld affirmative action at American colleges.

He added that Harvard admissions have raised the number Asian Americans admitted from 17.6 to over 21 percent over the last decade. The ratio is high considering that Asian-Americans make up just five percent of the American population.

Still, the groups cite research from a number of admissions researchers. According to the Wall Street Journal, the groups showed that on average, Asian Americans score 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than African Americans on SAT tests, which is a 2,400-point scale.

Likewise, groups make use of the Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade, who has written extensively about how Asian Americans are disadvantaged in the admissions process. The Washington Post reports that the researcher was still careful to point out he couldn’t prove discrimination because some application information isn’t available to researchers.


The complaint is the second discrimination suit against Harvard in just a short amount of time. Last year, the Texas-based nonprofit Students for Fair Admission sued the university, arguing that affirmative action policies disadvantage white and Asian applicants unfairly and should be banned across America.

While the suits are being worked out, some Asian Americans do have help to try and overcome discriminatory policies. The Los Angeles Times reports that HS2 Academy teaches how to get into prestigious universities assuming there’s a racial bias. Their goal is to get applicants not to come off as another “cookie-cutter Asian,” according to Ann Lee.

“Everyone is in orchestra and plays piano. Everyone plays tennis. Everyone wants to be a doctor, and write about immigrating to America. You can’t get in with these cliche applications.”

The academy attempts to offer students an array of hobbies that diverge from classic stereotypes. Still, for Asian-American parents and students who see academic success as a moral and social imperative, any hint of discrimination, especially at a school like Harvard, is difficult to accept.

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