Ying Ma: Harvard's racism cannot stand -- Elite universities have protected the diversity sham for too long

The racism of one of America’s most elite institutions, Harvard University, is on trial. Oral arguments begin on Monday for Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University, a case in which Harvard is accused of systematically discriminating against Asian-American applicants in college admissions.

At issue will be the sham known as diversity in higher education.

For far too long, elite institutions like Harvard have justified complicated schemes of racial discrimination by invoking the concept of diversity.

In particular, Asian-Americans have borne the cost. According to an internal Harvard study examining applicant data from 2007 to 2016, Asian-Americans would make up 43 percent of an entering class if applicants were evaluated purely in terms of academic credentials; 31 percent if athletics and legacy status were also taken into account; 26 percent if extracurricular activities and Harvard’s “personal rating” were added; and 18 percent if race was also a consideration.

In actuality, Asian admits made up 19 percent of the entering class for the period in question, a figure that closely approximated the university’s internal modeling.

The gap between 19 percent and 43 percent is driven by racial considerations and prejudices on multiple levels. Harvard does not just employ racial preferences when considering an applicant’s race; it also inserts racial prejudices into an applicant’s subjective “personal rating.” While alumni who have interviewed Asian applicants give them high marks, admissions officers routinely rate them as not having qualities such as courage, kindness, and likeability.

Upon analyzing Harvard’s internal study, Dr. Althea Nagai of the Center for Equal Opportunity concludes that African-American or Native American applicants get a considerably large “plus factor” in admissions to Harvard, while Hispanic applicants get a “plus factor” to a smaller extent. Being Asian, however, is a “minus factor” all around.

Confronted with evidence of its racist practices, Harvard has dutifully trotted out the lingo of diversity. It maintains that it “will continue to vigorously defend the right of Harvard College, and every other college and university in the nation, to seek the educational benefits that come from bringing together a diverse group of students.”

While insisting that “race is indeed a factor that can contribute to a student’s admission, but merely one factor among many, many others,” Harvard also admits that “eliminating the consideration of race ‘would reduce the population of students who self-identify as African-American, Hispanic, or “Other” … by nearly 50%.’”

That is cold comfort to Asian applicants who are denied admissions, especially since research by the plaintiffs suing Harvard shows that an Asian-American applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he were white, a 75 percent chance if he was Hispanic, and a 95 percent chance if he was African American.

Worse yet, Harvard is not the only university that engages in anti-Asian discrimination. Other elite universities do so as well. Enrollment rates of Asian Americans at Ivy League universities between 2007 and 2013 hover around the same percentages and range between 12 and 19 percent.

By contrast, the California Institute of Technology, which does not consider race in admissions, has an undergraduate student body that is 43 percent Asian.

All of these numbers reveal that racial diversity is a sham. Ultimately, it is about identity politics, and identity politics is about grievance. In turn, grievance provides an excuse for racial discrimination against different groups. In this world, Asian-Americans rank near the bottom of the pecking order because they are not perceived to be especially aggrieved, and certainly not as aggrieved as underrepresented minorities such as African-Americans or Hispanics.

The absurdity of the grievance paradigm is made even more absurd by the argument from some defenders of Harvard that affirmative action should be focused on various Southeast Asian groups, who tend to lack a college education and are more likely than other Asians to be mired in poverty.

In other words, racial preferences should be granted to Asians who are more underrepresented, but Harvard can freely discriminate against an applicant of say, East Asian descent, if administrators believe (as they do) that these Asians make up too much of the university’s student body relative to their numbers in the general American population.

Legal or not, this is egregious and immoral. One hopes that the lawsuit against Harvard will help tear down the entire edifice of racial preferences constructed and protected by elite universities. Diversity has been used as a code word, a fancy justification, for their racism. It cannot stand.