It’s not that they wanted to be the wedge in the battle for affirmative action, but there is a dirty secret desire to end the discrimination against them, without becoming the target of the ire of others also fighting for their hegemony. Asians are in a very awkward position.
A group that is suing Harvard University is demanding that it publicly release admissions data on hundreds of thousands of applicants, saying the records show a pattern of discrimination against Asian-Americans going back decades.
The group was able to view the documents through its lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 and challenges Harvard’s admissions policies. The plaintiffs said in a letter to the court last week that the documents were so compelling that there was no need for a trial, and that they would ask the judge to rule summarily in their favor based on the documents alone.
What doesn’t appear on the surface is that this isn’t a broad movement by Asians to vindicate their right to be free from discrimination. This push comes from affirmative action foes, who are fighting the battle against affirmative action by using Asians. And the deeper problem is they’re right about discrimination against Asians, and everybody knows it.
The leader of Students for Fair Admissions and the architect of the case against Harvard is Edward Blum, a longtime crusader against affirmative action who has recruited plaintiffs, hired sympathetic lawyers and raised millions of dollars from conservative groups to challenge voting rights laws and affirmative action policies, often successfully.
If you’re antagonistic toward affirmative action, then Blum is on the side of the angels. If not (and I’m not), then Blum is a disingenuous opportunist who has managed to corral some Asians as pawns for his cause. The problem is that he’s got Harvard nailed to the wall.
Students for Fair Admissions includes more than a dozen Asian-American students who applied to Harvard and were rejected. They contend in their lawsuit that Harvard systematically and unconstitutionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants by penalizing their high achievement as a group, while giving preferences to other racial and ethnic minorities. They say that Harvard’s admission process amounts to an illegal quota system.
Harvard, naturally claims to be completely pure in its admissions, discriminating against no one ever and no Harvard grad ever farts. But, of course, if that were remotely true, half of Harvard’s incoming class would be Asian. For whatever reason (thanks, mom), they earned it through hard work and achievement.
Harvard’s response is that its admissions process involves mystical crystals that can’t be seen by the public, not to mention other colleges, lest they steal its juju.
The contents of the documents have been only roughly sketched out in court papers. But Harvard said in its letter that the parties have exchanged more than 90,000 pages, including “deeply personal and highly sensitive information about applicants to and students at Harvard and the inner workings of Harvard’s admissions process.”
“Harvard understands that there is a public interest in this case and that the public has certain — though not unfettered — interests in access to judicial materials,” the university said. “Those interests, however, must be balanced against the need to protect individual privacy and confidential and proprietary information about the admissions process.”
Waving the red flag of student confidentiality is always good for the groundlings, but may not play for Judge Allison Burroughs. So the kicker at the end is “proprietary information,” the good ol’ trade secret of Harvard. The black box. The voodoo. Or, if Blum is right, the racial quota.
“That information is highly proprietary to Harvard and of great interest to college admissions consultants and others who seek any advantage they can muster in the highly competitive admissions process,” Harvard said in its letter. Releasing it “would put Harvard at a severe competitive disadvantage,” the university said, and would prompt applicants to try to game the system.
It’s rather hard to imagine Harvard being put at a “severe competitive disadvantage” to any elite university. It’s not as if Harvard applicants aren’t also applying to Yale, and they aren’t likely to be stolen away by Middlesex County Community College. Regardless of all else, it’s still Harvard. Indeed, if it wasn’t Harvard, all those Asians who are denied admission wouldn’t want to go there in the first place.
But isn’t Harvard a private college, and thus allowed to keep its dirty laundry dirty?
The plaintiffs also say that the public — which provides more than half a billion dollars a year in federal funding to Harvard — has a right to see the evidence that the judge will consider in her decision.
If you need any further reason to find the Crimson annoying, it’s that the college with an endowment larger than many small countries gets half a bil in federal funding. It’s not as if there are any other schools that are more deserving of the tax dollars of factory workers than Harvard, right?
Harvard counters that the documents are tantamount to trade secrets, and that even in the unlikely event that the judge agrees to decide the case without a trial, she is likely to use only a fraction of the evidence in her decision. Only that portion, the university says, should be released.
For a great many Asian students, finding themselves in the middle of someone else’s racial battle is about as bad a position as it gets. They didn’t ask to be smart, hard-working, high achieving, so as to be useful as a wedge in other people’s race war. The last thing they need is to become the white man’s stalking horse. Why would any group that just wants to do well desire to have some other group put a target on their foreheads for a fight that isn’t theirs?
But at the same time, there are some who will privately bemoan the fact that they are very much the victims of discrimination because they are the victims of their own success. And they earned that success, and they should not be denied admission to Harvard because of race.
In their secret hearts, they want to see Harvard’s anti-Asian discrimination end, even though they won’t say it aloud. And Harvard is wide open to the charge, because it flagrantly discriminates against Asians, which is how there’s any room for anyone else.