Admissions Controversy: It’s 2006 All Over Again!

Remember that Yale freshman (and soon-to-be Harvard transfer) who filed a civil rights complaint against Princeton because he believed that Old Nassau had rejected him for being Asian? After which The Daily Princetonian mocked the complainant by, um, making fun of him for being Asian? 2006: stellar year for race relations in the Ivy League!

Minus the race-baiting Prince column, it’s happening all over again, this time with an unnamed Asian-American of Indian descent, who has filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights against Harvard and Princeton for discriminating against Asian applicants. The complaints have stirred sundry responses of equally mild outrage. Even the more right-wingy op-eds read as though their authors are posed in perpetual shrugs.

There may be a decent explanation for the befuddling lack of concern, as Daniel de Vise of the Washington Post argues. The entire basis for the 2006 complaint, and the current complaints against Princeton and Harvard, is that Asian applicants whom either school admits almost always possess the highest SAT scores of their class. However, as de Vise points out:

[R]emember that Asian-Americans outscore all other racial and ethnic groups on the SAT. A college where Asian students have lower SAT math scores than whites would be a statistical oddity.

Which means the whole problem is more likely found in that sinister totem of elite colleges: holistic admissions. As both a phrase and an idea, “holistic admissions” is sort of misleading: it describes the method whereby colleges admit a carefully calibrated freshman class, not individual applicants. Such a process contradicts the bizarre caricature that statistical studies paint of college admissions. To draw a meaningful conclusion from, say, this Princeton study, you’re required to imagine that admissions committees serially pit the applications of two students against each other, much like an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch. (Which would be really exciting to watch, no?)

Probably the biggest concern is that if Harvard and Princeton can be found to discriminate against Asians based on statistics alone, then pretty much every elite college (with the exception of Berkeley, and apparently CalTech) can be found to discriminate against Asians. If that’s true, it would be an enormous (and very newsworthy) conspiracy. And if it is a conspiracy, then Harvard and Princeton appear to be exceptionally incompetent conspirators: though Asians account for some 5% of the U.S. population, they make up, respectively, 17% and 19% of Harvard’s and Princeton’s undergraduate bodies.

  • Techgirl

    “CalTech” should be “Caltech”. 
    That said, I am very content to be surrounded by Asian-ness.

    • Teh fuk?

      Cool story, bro.

      - Ivy League

      • lol

        csb indeed

      • AngleeAsian

         IVY REAGUE IS RACISS!!

  • Chosen

    “Holistic admissions” is a straw man. Read “Paper Tigers.” 

    There is no sacred principle of evaluating applicants only by SATs and GPAs. Those things are only valuable as predictors of college and postcollege “success,” which can encompass things like leadership ability and social competence. If an admissions committee has reason to believe that some cultural subpopulation has a strategy for getting artificially high SATs, so that the test isn’t tracking “success” as it’s intended to do, they are totally justified in taking that into account. A lot of applicants, many of them Asian, are specifically coached for success at standardized tests (reflecting the Chinese university admissions system), at the expense of things like social aptitude / independent ambition / other intangibles, which the SAT is supposed to imperfectly reflect. The underrepresentation of Asians in a variety of “leadership” roles, and especially in business and politics, reflects this fixation on standardized testing. 

    Not that less defendible forms of “discrimination” can’t possibly play a role. For a lot of committees they probably do. But that’s not the whole story.

    • Andrew

      You are a racist troll. Asian Americans are just as involved in extracurricular activities as whites are, probably more involved. Shut the fuck up with your stereotyping of Asians as mindless math robots. 

  • Anon

    Asians are over represented in the ivies. They should only be 4%.

    • wtf

      wtf have you been smoking…

      So you’re saying they should go by the demographics? 12% african americans, 16& hispanic/latinos? and the rest whites?

      • Anon

        Yes, that is what the federal government guidlines say.  You are allowed to “discriminate” ie affirmative action to mimic the perecntages of a certain population make up. All police forces do this. All firehouses do this. All schools do this. Don’t you also wonder why schools are 50/50 male female when 65% of the applicants are female? Schools also have to fill every departement, and every major, and every sports team,etc.  They just can’t take people with 800 math scores, and leave out all the other disciplines. They also want people with 800 French scores, and 800 music scores, and 800 Art history scores. One discipline is not considered better than another. They also try to take geographic distributions and not all from California and New York.  

      • joe

        Actually in the ivy league schools, minorities are generally over represented than in the national population. That is why they laugh at lawsuits like this.

    • Zwiswoo

      By this logic, Jews should only be two percent as well. Sounds like a great plan…let’s just leave considerations of academic merit out of it, and call populations ‘over-represented’ based simply on the fraction of the American population they form.

  • Law Student

    Asians are probably slightly discriminated against in the elites, as well they should.  In fact, fewer Asians should be in the ivies, to be replaced by red-state whites, who are actually even more discriminated against.  Asians didn’t build our culture or our universities at all – Europeans did.  They come here to leech off us, and when they don’t get to the top immediately (or even when they do) they complain and whine about it.  Yeah, you get 1560 SAT scores, fine.  But our colleges reward more than rote and practiced test taking skills.  They like to have creative and thoughtful students, not only emotionless grinds.

    • You got in AA didn’t you?


      Asians are probably slightly discriminated against in the elites, as well they should.”

      Slightly? You have no idea just how much harder it is getting in to Ivies as an Asian.


      They come here to leech off us, and when they don’t get to the top immediately (or even when they do) they complain and whine about it. ”

      Asians have legitimate reasons to whine when someone 500 SAT points lower than they as well as being in the bottom half of the class with nothing special gets in while they don’t just because of affirmative action.


      Yeah, you get 1560 SAT scores, fine.  But our colleges reward more than rote and practiced test taking skills.  They like to have creative and thoughtful students, not only emotionless grinds.”

      Way to stereotype. I’m sure every Asian out there is a mindless robot who just studies all day. Yup. No creative/thoughtful Asians exist because it’s an oxymoron. Btw, being thoughtful doesn’t get you into colleges. 

      • Gmel

        Actually being thoughtful can get you into College. As an administrator in alumni relations, I’ve sat through a few admissions workshops. A genuinely thoughtful student who shows leadership potential (not simply class president, but more along the lines of the creation and upkeep of new program that benefits others) is more likely to get admitted than a student with higher test scores.

    • Anonymous

      That last statement you made implies that getting high SAT scores make you an emotionless grind.  

      Are you saying that creative and thoughtful students cannot achieve high scores on the SAT?  

      • obvious


        Are you saying that creative and thoughtful students cannot achieve high scores on the SAT? ”

        That’s just his excuse for failing.

    • Slightly Asian

      redneck.

    • Seank888

       1560 is low for an asian

    • Guest

      Don’t feed the racist troll!  Also I highly doubt this is a real “law student,” but if so good luck passing the bar with your shitty logic skills.

    • Stereo(asian)hearts

      “Law Student”: Yes, you are absolutely right.  I got a 1560 on my SAT’s because I wrote-off the other 40pts to people like you.  And let me just say, I will be the bigger man and complacently congratulate you on your ignorant epiphany. 

      I wish you, and your unaccredited-online-pseudo-law degree, all the best.  May you reach your fullest potentials in the boondocks, playing detective with your mommy.

  • Guest

    Sometimes I think that “holistic admissions” were introduced not so much to create diversity but to find an excuse to keep out Asians without it being labeled discrimination.