Harvard Is Accused of Racism Against Asians, but the Case Is Complicated

Diversity among student populations continues to be a major priority for many college administrations across the country, and this past week, Harvard University has been in the news for this reason.

The private university, set in storied Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the subject of by New York Times contributor Wesley Yang earlier this week, who blasted the school's discriminatory affirmative action policies.

Yang, a columnist at Tablet, an online publication, took aim at the school after reports surfaced that Harvard was dinging its Asian-American applicants by giving them lower-than-average personality ratings in order to offset their unusually high test scores. But other people have their own opinions on this as well.

"The conclusion is unavoidable," wrote Yang in his opinion piece. "In order to sustain this system, Harvard admissions systematically denigrated the highest achieving group of students in America. Asian-Americans have been collateral damage in the university's quest to sustain its paradoxical mission to grow its $37 billion endowment and remain the world's most exclusive institution -- all while incessantly preaching egalitarian doctrines."

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Since 2014, Harvard has been embroiled in a class-action lawsuit and is defending itself against claims of racial bias.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, (SFFA), a nonprofit group with a membership of more than 20,000 students, parents, and others, is representing a dozen Asian-Americans denied admission by Harvard in the ongoing lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Yang's diatribe came in the wake of "The Stunning Evidence of Harvard's Racism," which also accused the private school of "blatant, egregious racism in the name of diversity."

As Yang wrote in his op-ed, "Earlier this month we learned a review of more than 160,000 individual student files contained in six years of Harvard's admissions data found that Asians outperformed all other racial groups on every measure of academic achievement: grades, SAT scores and the most AP exams passed.

He added that Asians listed more extracurricular activities than their counterparts, and were rated by interviewers who met them in person as "virtually on par" with their white peers in their personal characteristics.

Harvard is denying any and all allegations of bias against Asian-American students.

"Yet Harvard admissions officers, many of whom had never met these applicants, scored them collectively as the worst of all groups in the one area -- personality -- that was subjective enough to be readily manipulable to serve Harvard's institutional interests," Yang wrote.

Harvard is denying any and all allegations of bias against Asian-American students.

On June 12, Harvard President Drew Faust wrote a letter to the Crimson community titled, "Defending Diversity."

"In the weeks and months ahead," Faust wrote, "a lawsuit aimed to compromise Harvard's ability to compose a diverse student body will move forward in the courts and in the media. As the case proceeds, an organization called Students for Fair Admissions -- formed in part to oppose Harvard's commitment to diversity -- will seek to paint an unfamiliar and inaccurate image of our community and our admissions processes, including by raising allegations of discrimination against Asian-American applicants to Harvard College."

She added, "These claims will rely on misleading, selectively presented data taken out of context. Their intent is to question the integrity of the undergraduate admissions process and to advance a divisive agenda. Please see here for more information about the case."

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, .

"Harvard's recent decision to issue a statement complaining that SFFA has taken the evidence "out of context" and then to demand the evidence be hidden from the public is disreputable, but typical, he said.

"From the beginning of this case," he continued, "Harvard has endeavored to litigate in secret because it knows the American people will be shocked to learn how it treats Asian-Americans."

Could it be simply that Faust, who is set to resign on June 30, is neglecting the school's own motto, "Veritas," meaning truth, in an aim to validate Harvard's hallowed diversity practices at all cost?

It is worth pointing out that other interested groups have strong feelings about the case as well. -- a coalition based in Washington, D.C., of more than 30 leading national organizations representing various Asian-American ethnic groups -- issued a statement saying that it had looked at Harvard's data but did not find intentional or implicit bias against Asian-American applicants.

"After further examination of Harvard's own data, we do not believe that there was intentional or implicit bias against Asian American applicants," the group said in its statement. "If we did conclude that Harvard's admissions policies were impacted by implicit bias against our community, we would most certainly voice our concern."

It also said this: "We strongly support admission policies that aim to make colleges and universities more diverse and we stand in solidarity with other communities of color. Higher education offers invaluable opportunities, and we believe that these institutions should be accessible to everyone."

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on .