Elite universities sued over race-based admissions

November 18, 2014 | By WENCONG FA

Yesterday, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were sued over their race-based admissions practices. The complaints (here and here) describe, in detail, the divisive use of race at both universities.

One interesting point is the role that euphemisms play in justifying racial preferences. For instance, schools like Harvard generally require higher scores for Asian applicants; no other group is as underrepresented when compared with the applicant pool. This has led to the unfortunate stereotype that many Asians who have succeed academically cannot get into these schools because they are not “well-rounded.” Yet there is no evidence to support this assertion. To the contrary, research shows that the only strong predictor for qualities such as leadership and community service is academic achievement. Moreover, universities with race-based admissions purport to use race as a “plus factor.” That would not be a problem for a university that admits all applicants. But Harvard and UNC are not regarded as elite schools because they are inclusive, but because they are exclusive. They use a highly competitive admissions process so that they can admit only a limited number of applicants. And in such a system, race cannot be a “plus factor” for some without being a “minus factor” for others.