The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (June 14) asked the Biden administration for an opinion on whether the justices should hear the Harvard University “admissions discrimination” case. The case of alleged discrimination against Asian students in Harvard’s admissions process was appealed to the U.S. Federal Supreme Court in February. The plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, asked the Supreme Court to prohibit race from being considered in college admissions decisions. If the case is ultimately heard by the Supreme Court, the decision could have far-reaching implications for U.S. racial diversity policies and affirmative action to help increase African-American and Latino admissions rates.
“Students for Fair Admissions opposes the consideration of race in admissions decisions. The group alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asians in undergraduate admissions, including “racial balancing,” setting higher standards for Asian students and using “personality scores” to score Asians lower in order to increase the proportion of other minorities, such as African-Americans. The organization also argued that Harvard’s overemphasis on race in admissions, and its failure to consider, for example, “race neutrality,” was inconsistent with the limited consideration of race established by Supreme Court precedent.
The case was heard in lower courts before coming to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Harvard. Last November, a decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston held that Harvard considered race in a limited way, consistent with prior Supreme Court precedent.
Supreme Court seeks DOJ opinion
In an order (Certiorari-summary Dispositions), the Supreme Court asked the Acting Solicitor General of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a brief in the case “expressing the views of the United States.” The Justice Department’s involvement could delay the case for months. The Supreme Court also did not set a deadline Monday for the case to be heard.
Gail Heriot, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision to require the Biden administration to intervene. This is an important case,” she told Voice of America. If America is to remain true to its ideals, it must sooner or later address racial discrimination in college admissions. Today, Asian-American students have to be a little better than other students to be accepted into a prestigious school like Harvard. This is wrong. In my opinion, the Supreme Court is stalling.”
The Supreme Court has already decided to consider cases on abortion and gun control in 2021. Halliott speculated that the Supreme Court’s delay is because they don’t want to deal with too many controversial issues at once, “perhaps the justices think three such cases are too many.”
According to Reuters, conservative activist Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, said in a statement that regardless of the Biden administration’s views, his group “remains hopeful that the justices will grant leave to hear our case and put an end to race-based affirmative action in college admissions. race-based affirmative action in college admissions.”
Harvard said about 26 percent of the class of 2025 will be Asian-American, about 16 percent African-American and 12.5 percent Latino. In urging the court not to intervene in the case, the Associated Press said Harvard told the court, “If Harvard were to drop consideration of race in admissions, the number of African-Americans and Latinos would be cut nearly in half.”
Harvard declined a request from Voice of America for comment on the latest developments in the case. But the university’s director of media relations responded to Voice of America in an email saying, “Creating and supporting a diverse campus community is more important than ever, and Harvard remains committed to that goal.”
In an article, the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, cited reasons why affirmative action should be upheld in college admissions, including the fact that affirmative action helps promote social mobility and contributes to the educational experience of students of all backgrounds. The article continues, “Affirmative action ensures that colleges and universities provide opportunities for those who have historically been excluded from the system because of their race, ethnicity, income, or status. Therefore, it is critical that policymakers and legislators work to protect the use of race-conscious admissions policies nationwide.”
OiYan Poon, an associate professor at Colorado State University who has long studied race-conscious admissions, did not see evidence of discrimination against Asians in this case. She added that using race as one of many factors is an assessment of each student’s talents and potential within the context of their education, which does not mean that race is the reason a student is admitted or rejected.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of the Asian American Advocates for Justice (AAJC), told Voice of America, “We believe that affirmative action is good for the country and good for the university system, and we hope that the Supreme Court will continue to affirm the validity of affirmative action and its application in the university setting. “
But he also mentioned that the Harvard case is really about whether the court found discrimination against the Asian-American community, and the case is really about discrimination rather than affirmative action. The plaintiffs are trying to set up the case as one about the use of race in admissions policies, but really the two should still be looked at separately.
Kenny Xu (Dongfeng) is a writer, a media contributor, and an activist who has long followed the Harvard case and race-conscious admissions issues. In his forthcoming book, An Inconvenient Minority, he discusses the Harvard case and the calculated attacks on Asian Americans that he believes undermine America’s elite society. In a recent interview with Voice of America, Kenny Xu (Dongfeng) also discussed his views on the Harvard case and the situation of Asian-Americans behind the case. (The following is an excerpt of the interview, and represents the interviewee’s personal opinion)
Admissions and Elite Culture
Reporter Q: I know you have been following the Harvard lawsuit, can you talk about this case and its importance?
Kenny Xu (Dongfeng): The lawsuit about Harvard is very important because Asian-Americans are a key minority group when talking about the culture of excellence in the U.S. Asian-Americans, with high achievement and high academic standards, if that culture starts to run counter to excellence, the Harvard case is an example of that. It is no longer just Asian-Americans who are affected, but our next generation of doctors, engineers, businessmen, scientists and indeed everyone in this country.
The Harvard case occurred in 2014 when Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard University for discriminating against them by admitting relatively poorly qualified students of other ethnicities and whites. Harvard says they want diversity, especially racial diversity. But the key point here is in which areas you can trade diversity for meritocracy. Harvard went over the line on this one, so the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.
Q: What do you expect to happen if the Supreme Court eventually takes the case?
Kenny Xu: I think this is a barometer of race-conscious admissions, because race-conscious admissions is saying, we don’t want to admit the most qualified candidates, we want to admit candidates of a certain ethnicity. If the Supreme Court rules against Harvard in this case, then I think the extension of the ruling is that we should no longer consider race in the admissions process, we should not judge people based on race, we should not limit people based on race. So I think it would be good for society if the Supreme Court rules against Harvard.
Q: Will dropping the consideration of race in the admissions process lead to more racial discrimination? Will it make universities more inclined to other admissions methods, such as admissions for children of alumni?
Kenny Xu: I think admissions for alumni children is a different topic, and admissions should be merit-based, so I don’t think there should be admissions for alumni children. But if you drop “race-conscious” admissions, that might have an impact on alumni admissions, because it shows that merit takes precedence over race, and it takes precedence over alumni admissions.
Q: Some people think that the United States is an inclusive, diverse country with a diverse society and diverse communities, so universities should be more inclusive and diverse as well. What are your thoughts on this idea?
Kenny Xu (Dongfeng): Americans themselves are diverse. Why do you need diversity across race and why is that the only form of diversity that you care about, if you admit elites, you will find that they have very different backgrounds and life experiences, just like Asian-Americans, they have very different backgrounds and life experiences. So I don’t think the principle of diversity means that you should only focus on racial diversity.
The plight and travails of Asians
Reporter Q: We know that your new book, “Inconvenient Minorities,” which will be released in July, mentions the Harvard case and the injustices experienced by Asian-Americans under diversity and inclusion policies. Can you talk a little bit about why you wanted to write this book?
Kenny Xu (Dongfeng): I went to high school in Princeton, New Jersey, and we had a lot of Asian-Americans in our school. There were people in the school who were able to get into Ivy League schools, and as we all know, some of them were average and mediocre, but their connection to the school, their race, allowed them to knock on the doors of Ivy League schools. Many Asian-Americans are both hardworking and diligent, they’re talented, they’re smart, they’re objectively better learners, and yet they’re rejected, and I think that’s so unfair. In this country, you’re supposed to reward hard work, you’re supposed to reward intellectual competence, you’re supposed to reward excellence and excellence. But now that culture has spread across the country, not just at Harvard, not just at Ivy League schools, but it’s spreading to our public schools, it’s spreading to our gifted and talented programs. You see people trying to do away with entrance exams, trying to admit by lottery, even in our companies who are diverse and inclusive in trying to hire certain minorities over others just because certain minorities are of a particular ethnicity. I think that elevates race to too high a status.
The book is really an exploration of the principle of excellence and what really happens when you allow legitimate discrimination to spread through our culture against key minorities.
Q: Does the broken elite culture and the plight of Asian Americans also indicate that the American dream is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve for immigrants who aspire to come to this country?
Kenny Xu: The American dream for immigrants has always been to be treated based on the fact that they worked hard and they just want an equal opportunity to compete and succeed in this country. I think that’s the greatest principle of all, but that principle is now under attack because some people prefer to treat people based on race rather than on how good and outstanding that person is. This diminishes the excellence of Asian-Americans, who arrive at first without social privilege, without social connections, and who have to rely on their own abilities and talents to succeed in society. When you lose people who revere the elite system, when you don’t give back to those who are dedicated, then you’re destroying Asian American excellence. So I think the American dream, it’s really in jeopardy.
Q: In your book, you mention that Asians recognize their situation and have begun to fight back, and not just for themselves. “They are striving for a principle, an elite system, that not only elevates millions of people, but creates a framework in which the many different people in America can interact fairly in an integrated way without resorting to the flames of identity politics.”
Kenny Xu (Eastwind): Yeah, Asian Americans are finally waking up to the fact that they’ve been silent about these issues for too long. They’ve never had much political or social capital in this country, but they’re starting to accumulate it in large numbers. This is a really inspiring story, and this is a story about California’s Proposition 16. California Proposition 16 proposed to allow consideration of race and other factors in admissions, recruitment and public relations contracting, and the proposal raised $28 million. We had a group of Chinese-American, Asian-American activists who opposed the proposal, and we raised about $2 million. They raised 13 times as much as we did, but ultimately 43 percent supported Proposition 16, but 57 percent opposed race-inclusive admissions and recruitment. So I think it shows that Asian-Americans are really waking up.