Claims of anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard reveal a long, complicated fight over affirmative action

(From Yahoo News)

By Caitlin Dickson

Does one of the nation’s most prestigious universities really have a racially biased admissions process, or are the organizers behind such a claim merely pushing a larger, more controversial agenda?

Those were the questions prompted by a federal complaint filed last week with the Departments of Justice and Education by more than 60 Asian-American organizations who say Harvard University uses racial quotas and other illegal practices to discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

“The discrimination in college admissions is the biggest civil rights issue Asian-Americans suffer from,” read a release inviting all members of the media to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday, where leaders from the Coalition of Asian-American Associations gathered to call for an investigation of the Ivy League school’s admissions practices.

It’s not the first time Harvard has been accused of capping the number of Asian-American students in its incoming classes. A November 2014 lawsuit by a group called Students for Fair Admissions made the same claim. That suit compared the school’s alleged Asian-American policies to its treatment of Jewish applicants nearly nine decades ago, when Harvard expanded its admissions criteria beyond academic achievement, essentially as a means of cracking down on the growing percentage of Jewish freshmen that then-president A. Lawrence Lowell feared would “ruin the college.”

But critics — many within the Asian-American community — have questioned the real motive behind these cases, charging that both may be using the alleged racial discrimination against Asian-Americans as a wedge issue to promote a much larger agenda: the dismantling of affirmative action.

“They are trying to confuse people,” University of California Irvine sociologist Jennifer Lee said of the language used in the Harvard complaint. “They don’t discuss affirmative action, but are very deliberate about using the term ‘quotas,’ because it tends to provoke controversy among Americans.” Read more

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