USA Today: Asians get the Ivy League’s Jewish treatment

Glenn Reynolds, writing in USA Today, authored the following op-ed about discrimination against Asians by Ivy League schools.

Decades ago, the Ivy League colleges thought they had a problem: too many Jews. These recent immigrants, from a culture that prized education and academic achievement, had an unfortunate characteristic: They worked harder, studied longer and cared more about school. In short, they had all the attributes required for success in the Ivy League.

Problem was, the Ivy League didn’t really want them. Being first-generation students, these applicants didn’t have rich alumni parents who would be likely to donate big bucks. Being from an ethnicity not associated with America’s governing class, they didn’t help the Ivy League with its biggest selling point — that going to college there provides an opportunity to rub shoulders with America’s governing class. And they were seen as boring grinds who studied too hard and weren’t much fun.

The result was a change in admissions criteria to reward “leadership,” and “well-rounded” candidates — a thin disguise for “WASPs” — and, following closely on, actual quotas for Jewish students, so that no matter how many applied, their numbers on campus would stay just about the same. After several decades, this came to be seen as racist and unfair, and the quotas were dropped. (Though by then, conveniently enough, the Ivy League was able to find Jewish applicants with plenty of money, polish and governing-class connections without too much trouble).

But while the quotas for Jews are gone, the Ivy League now, by all accounts, has quotas for Asian students. They are seen as people who study too hard, boring grinds who aren’t much fun — and, of course, their parents aren’t as rich and connected. And though the numbers of highly qualified Asian applicants have grown dramatically, the number of Asians admitted stays pretty much the same every year.

Now the Asian students are suing. In a lawsuit against Harvard, they are claiming that Harvard demands higher qualifications from Asian students than from others, and that it uses “racial classifications to engage in the same brand of invidious discrimination against Asian Americans that it formerly used to limit the number of Jewish students in its student body.”

These claims are almost certainly correct. Discrimination against Asian students — and not just by Harvard, but throughout higher education — has been an open secret for years. Asian students, we’re told, face a “bamboo ceiling” as a result.

Where today’s discrimination is different from the Ivy League’s old quotas against Jews is that those old quotas were removed as part of efforts to fight racism. The Ivy League’s new quotas, meanwhile, are often defended on the same grounds — or, at least, as a means of attaining “diversity.”

But that’s harder to do in a nation that is made of minorities. In the old days, affirmative action was about overcoming white resistance to opening up institutions to blacks. If a black student with lower SAT scores got a spot in college at the expense of a white student, well, that white student probably had benefited to some degree from growing up, or having had parents who grew up, in a racially-segregated society. And, given many white institutions’ history of lying and foot-dragging when it came to desegregation, affirmative action was a way of ensuring that we got results, not excuses.

But it has been more than 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, and, what’s more, racial issues in America are no longer black-and-white. The Vietnamese child of boat people or the Indian “untouchable” immigrant who applies to Harvard didn’t benefit from racial segregation, and probably overcame more obstacles pre-college than an African-American born in New York. Why should these Asian applicants be disadvantaged so that universities can ensure that there aren’t too many of the wrong kind of people on campus?

Thirty years ago, my old law professor Burke Marshall wrote an article in the Yale Law Journal on non-discrimination in a “nation of minorities.” He opined that affirmative action was still about breaking down white power structures. Maybe that was still true in 1984. But now universities — all of which, including “private” schools like Harvard, are heavily fed by taxpayer funds — are engaging in racial discrimination in order to produce what they regard as a pleasing bouquet of race and ethnicity. Is that a good enough reason to deny individuals a fair chance? I don’t think so. And I suspect that courts will feel the same way.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.



Seeks additional students recently rejected from competitive universities

(Washington, DC) Today, the Project on Fair Representation announces the filing of two lawsuits challenging the racial preference admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Read the complaint against Harvard

Read the complaint against UNC-Chapel Hill

The plaintiff in both lawsuits—Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA)— is a newly-formed, nonprofit, membership organization whose members include  highly qualified students recently denied admission to both schools, highly qualified students who plan to apply to both schools, and their parents.

The Harvard lawsuit alleges the university is engaging in a campaign of invidious discrimination by strictly limiting the number of Asian Americans it will admit each year and by engaging in racial balancing year after year. These discriminatory policies in college admissions are expressly forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws.

Students for Fair Admission’s complaint highlights data and analysis that strongly suggests that white, African-American, and Hispanic applicants are given racial preferences over better qualified Asian-Americans applying for admission to Harvard.

Additionally, the complaint demonstrates that Harvard is not in compliance with the new “strict scrutiny” standards articulated in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The Fisher opinion unambiguously requires schools to implement race-neutral means to achieve student body diversity before turning to racial classifications and preferences.

The UNC-Chapel Hill lawsuit alleges that, like Harvard, the University is not in compliance with the new Fisher strict scrutiny requirements. Students for Fair Admissions explains in its complaint that UNC has admitted in an amicus brief it submitted to the Supreme Court  in the Fisher case that the school can maintain, and actually increase, racial diversity through race-neutral means if it ends its race-based affirmative action policies. Students for Fair Admissions argues that this compels the university to end its racial classifications and preferences and adopt some combination of race-neutral policies instead.

The discrimination against Asian-Americans at Harvard and both schools’ blatant failure to comply with recent Supreme Court directives with regard to race preferences are emblematic of the behavior of the vast majority of competitive colleges throughout the country. Because of this, Students for Fair Admissions asserts in its complaints that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are inadministratable; a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws; and must be ended as a matter of policy and law.

Edward Blum, the director of the Project on Fair Representation, said, “These two lawsuits are the first of what are expected to be several similar challenges to other competitive colleges that continue to unconstitutionally use racial preferences in admission decisions. Students for Fair Admissions encourages any student who was recently rejected from a competitive university to contact us at”

The Harvard complaint documents the school’s long, irrefutable, history of instituting admissions policies to limit the number of Jewish students beginning in the 1920’s. The “Harvard Plan” itself—and the concept of an admissions system based on a “holistic” review of applicants instead of admission based on academic accomplishment—was formulated for the specific purpose of discriminating against Jews. Harvard’s “holistic review” today is primarily a similar tool to limit the number of Asian Americans it admits each year.

Blum continued, “It is especially disconcerting that public data shows that Harvard has purposefully limited the percentage of Asian-American freshman it admits. In fact, the number of Asian-Americans Harvard admits today is lower than it was 20-years ago, even though the number of highly qualified Asian-American applicants to Harvard has nearly doubled. Harvard’s discrimination against Asian-Americans is as deeply troubling today as was the discrimination against Jewish applicants that Harvard perpetrated in the name of ‘holistic’ admissions years ago.”

Blum concluded, “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has no need to continue to use racial and ethnic preferences and should end them now instead of facing years of expensive and polarizing litigation.”

Counsel for SFFA are Mr. William Consovoy and Mr. Thomas McCarthy of Consovoy McCarthy PLLC based in Arlington, Virginia.

The Project on Fair Representation (POFR) is a not-for-profit legal defense fund program that is designed to support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts. POFR provided counsel in a number of recent Supreme Court cases including, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. One v. Holder; Abigail Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin; and Shelby Co., Alabama v. Holder.