Harvard Case

Students for Fair Admissions, led by conservative activist Ed Blum, is suing Harvard University for discrimination against Asian Americans. Make sure you have the facts.

1. Harvard does not employ quotas and there is no evidence of “racial balancing.”  Asian American admission rates have increased 27% since 2010.

2. The Trump Administration recently rescinded Obama-era guidelines to educational institutions issued in 2011. These guidelines made clear that the law allows institutions of higher education to consider race in admissions in a narrowly tailored manner. After these guidelines were issued, the data above show Asian American admission rates actually went up at Harvard.

3. The group suing Harvard, SFFA, cherry-picks their sample to exclude important applicant categories, including early-applicants, legacy applicants, and children of faculty and staff. Asian Americans are well-represented in many of these categories.  Even using SFFA’s hand-picked group of applicants, Asian Americans exhibit a higher admissions rate than Whites:

Class White Admission Rate Asian American Admission Rate
2014 6.5% 6.3%
2015 5.3% 5.1%
2016 5.1% 5.5%
2017 4.5% 5.0%
2018 4.2% 4.4%
2019 3.9% 4.8%
TOTAL 4.9% 5.2%

4. There is no evidence of discrimination based on “personality.” The “personal rating” that SFFA says Asian Americans face discrimination on includes many factors, some not included in the data used by SFFA. SFFA’s expert excludes information on applicant characteristics including parents’ occupation, career choice, and major choice from his analysis even though they are available. Once this information is included, there is no difference in personal scores between Asian American and White applicants and model quality is better.

5. Even if one accepts SFFA’s flawed analysis, with regard to the personal rating being Asian American has a positive (but statistically insignificant) effect on those Asian Americans from California and Asian American females. Asian American ethnicity is also positive when considering overall academic and extracurricular scores. That is, all other measured characteristics being equal to other racial groups, Asian Americans would be expected to get a higher rating than other groups on both of these factors for reasons that can’t be explained by test scores or GPA. This positive rating counters the idea that Asian Americans face intentional discrimination in Harvard’s admissions process.

Who is Edward Blum?

Edward Blum is not a lawyer. He is an activist who has worked to roll-back minority voting rights. In 2012, he successfully brought a case to the Supreme Court that ended one of the most important provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (Shelby v. Holder). In 2016, he represented the plaintiffs in an unsuccessful case to challenging the U.S. Constitution’s provision that states count all residents (not just eligible voters) for purposes of political redistricting.  The Constitution mandates that “all persons” be counted for purposes for redistricting. If successful, the case would have restricted political representation for immigrants, including legal residents, who were not eligible to vote.

SFFA’s Ed Blum has a long anti-civil rights history

SFFA’s Ed Blum takes down Voting Rights

Ed Blum challenges immigrant political representation

Additional Resources

  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/im-an-activist-for-asian-americans-i-support-affirmative-action/2018/07/12/f637fb54-7e0a-11e8-b660-4d0f9f0351f1_story.html?utm_term=.5a9dbaad5fca
  • https://www.diverseharvard.org/lawsuit-update