A complaint Friday alleged that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants by setting a higher bar for admissions than that faced by other groups.
The complaint, filed by a coalition of 64 organizations, says the university has set quotas to keep the numbers of Asian-American students significantly lower than the quality of their applications merits. It cites third-party academic research on the SAT exam showing that Asian-Americans have to score on average about 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students and 450 points higher than African-American students to equal their chances of gaining admission to Harvard. The exam is scored on a 2400-point scale.
The complaint was filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
“Many studies have indicated that Harvard University has been engaged in systemic and continuous discrimination against Asian-Americans during its very subjective ‘Holistic’ college admissions process,” the complaint alleges.
The coalition is seeking a federal investigation and is requesting Harvard “immediately cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluating Asian-American applicants.”
Robert Iuliano, Harvard’s general counsel, said the school’s admissions policies are “fully compliant with the law.” The school says its admissions process takes into account a variety of factors besides academics, including applicants’ extracurricular activities and leadership qualities.
“Within its holistic admissions process, and as part of its effort to build a diverse class, Harvard College has demonstrated a strong record of recruiting and admitting Asian American students,” Mr. Iuliano said in a statement. He said the percentage of Asian-American students admitted to the undergraduate school rose to 21% from less than 18% in the past decade.
But the group that filed the complaint said that percentage should be much higher given the increasing numbers of Asian-American students that apply.
“There is a lot of discrimination, and it hurts not just Asian-Americans, it hurts the whole country,” said Yukong Zhao, a 52-year-old Chinese-American author who helped organize the coalition.