Harvard Ranked Asian American Applicants Lower on ‘Personal Qualities:’ Study

More Asian American students would get admitted to Harvard University if academic excellence was the only criterion, an internal review conducted at the institution shows, according to court filings.


A far greater number of Asian American students would secure admission at Harvard University if only academic excellence was taken into account, an internal review conducted five years back at the institution had shown, according to court documents released on June 15.

Admission officers at Harvard ranked Asian American students lower on personality scores, resulting in their low admission rate, data analysed as part of a racial discrimination lawsuit against the university revealed.

The review, done by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research, which was released during the legal case, suggested that the number of Asian-origin candidates getting admission into Harvard would be 43 percent of the admitted students if academics was the only criterion considered, the Washington Post reported. This would make them the largest ethnic group getting admissions to the university.

However, the Asian American students getting admission actually comprised only 19 percent, since extracurricular activities, personal qualities, demographics and other factors were included to arrive at the decision,, the report added.

Another study, conducted by Duke University economics professor Peter Arcidiacono, as part of the ongoing lawsuit that accuses Harvard University of discriminating against Asian American students, found that applicants of Asian descent had the lowest admission rate of any racial group between 2000 and 2019, even though they scored higher in tests than every other racial group over the period, the Independent reported.

The court filings further affirm the discriminatory admissions practices followed by Harvard, Students for Fair Admissions, a group of Asian American students and parents that sued the university over the issue, said, the Independent reported. Calling the court filing a revelation of the “startling magnitude of Harvard’s discrimination against Asian-American applicants,” SFFA President Edward Blum said, “We believe that the rest of the evidence will be released in the next few weeks, and it will further confirm that Harvard is in deliberate violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

Harvard denied the allegations in court filings, with its attorneys calling the internal review “incomplete, preliminary and based on limited inputs,” according to the Washington Post. The university said in a statement that the rate of admission for Asian American applicants had increased almost 30 percent in the last decade.

“Mr. Blum and his organization’s incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College’s whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations, that directly counter his arguments,” the university said, the Independent reported.

The civil lawsuit against Harvard was brought in 2014 by an advocacy group called Students for Fair Admissions, on behalf of 64 Asian American groups. The lawsuit claimed that the university intentionally discriminates against Asian American students, thereby violating the federal civil rights law.

Both the sides asked judges in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts to issue a summary judgement in their favor. If a ruling is not issued, the trial is scheduled to begin in October.

In the recent admission process,1,962 applicants were offered admission to the Class of 2022, who made up less than 5 percent of 42,749 students who applied to the university, according to the Washington Post. Of the students who gained admissions, 22.7 percent were Asian American, 15.5 percent were African American, 12.2 percent were Latino, 2 percent were Native American, and 12 percent were international students.

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