Harvard admissions says Asians have personality issues

In Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, the lawsuit alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants. As this article notes, Harvard’s admission committee regularly de-selects Asian-American students because it judges them “lower than others on traits like ‘positive personality.’ likability, courage, kindness, and being ‘widely respected.'”

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Read original article: Harvard Is Wrong That Asians Have Terrible Personalities

Vagueness of application criteria

At the top educational institutions in the United States, applications continue to increase year over year thus increasing competition on all levels. In this particular case, Asian-Americans represent 19% of the Harvard population, but only 5.6% of the entire United States population.

According to Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research, Asian-American student representation would jump from 19% to 43% if the university selected students on academic criteria alone. Clearly a few more things are at play.

The fundamental issue is that Harvard has been inconsistent and vague about application criteria for Asian-American applicants. While certain indicators are fairly straightforward (e.g. SAT scores, grades, and AP exams), some are nearly impossible to interpret (e.g. likability, courage, and kindness).

A trend in tech also

We see this exact trend at tech companies all the time.

In the early days of Google, they infamously used GPA and test scores as an indicator of success. Other vague criteria, such as “Googleyness,” stood in as a measurement for culture fit. Eventually, after tens of thousands of interviews, Google found zero relationship between interview scores and how that person ultimately performed at their job.

Keeping track?

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that public universities could not set targets based on race for admissions or employment. However, “goals” and “timetables” for diversity-based initiatives were allowed.

One year later in United Steelworks v. Weber, the Supreme Court said that private employers could set numerical quotas if they wished.

Both cases suggested that universities and companies should be aware of the biases they have against certain race and ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and / or gender at the very least, whether unconscious or not.

Moving beyond metrics

Metrics and quotas are a sensitive subject in the world of diversity and inclusion. Relying solely on metrics for your diversity program will only lead to larger issues. Each university and corporate culture is unique, so their paths to creating equal opportunity for all will be just as unique. If these institutions are unable or unwilling to be completely transparent about admissions or hiring, they are only continuing to contribute to the problem.


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