What is Harvard’s argument for race-based admissions in the #StopAsianHate age?

“Supreme Court to hear Harvard admissions challenge” (Harvard Gazette):

“The Supreme Court decision to review the unanimous decisions of the lower federal courts puts at risk 40 years of legal precedent granting colleges and universities the freedom and flexibility to create diverse campus communities. Considering race as one factor among many in admissions decisions produces a more diverse student body which strengthens the learning environment for all,” he said. “The U.S. Solicitor General rightfully recognized that neither the district court’s factual findings, nor the court of appeals’ application of the Supreme Court’s precedents to those findings, warrants further review. Harvard will continue to defend vigorously its admissions practices and to reiterate the unequivocal decisions of those two federal courts: Harvard does not discriminate; our practices are consistent with Supreme Court precedent; there is no persuasive, credible evidence warranting a different outcome. The University remains committed to academic excellence, expanded opportunity, and diverse educational experiences—and to the perennial work of preparing students for fruitful careers and meaningful lives.”

The case was first tried in 2018. Federal District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs found in favor of Harvard in her October 2019 decision on all counts, ruling that the College didn’t discriminate based on race, engage in racial balancing or the use of quotas, and that it had no suitable race-neutral alternatives that would allow it to achieve its pedagogical and diversity-related goals. Just over a year later, in November 2020, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Burroughs’ decision.

Based on the above, Harvard’s argument seems to be that race-based admissions is a sacred tradition and also that diversity is critical to learning, which explains why people in China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are ignorant of everything except how to implement a 3 nanometer process for integrated circuits.

A lot has changed since 2018, however. Stop Asian Hate began in March 2021, months after the appeals court upheld Harvard’s scheme. The term “AAPI,” lumping together half a globe of humanity into a single victimhood category, is more or less new since the 2018 trial as well.

The effect of Harvard’s race-based system is summarized pretty well in this video, from a friend of a friend:

Now that racism against Asians is considered, by all of the best people, to be bad, what is Harvard’s argument for perpetuating its current system of race-based discrimination?


10 thoughts on “What is Harvard’s argument for race-based admissions in the #StopAsianHate age?

  1. It’s argument should be that Harvard education is harmful to individual and communal well-being and that they are trying to protect Asian-American community from hurt their education would inflict.

  2. The Supreme Court repeatedly has to reign in totalitarian bureaucrats. If Trump hadn’t appointed three judges, the country would be lost by now.

    To be fair, preferring students from abroad has been policy at Oxford for a long time, so much that it is the topic of a Yes Minister episode. The reason is to have close ties between the ruling elites of Whitehall and nations all over the globe. Soft colonialism, if you will.

    But Harvard seems to have fewer international students, so the motivation seems to be purely ideological.

  3. I think the argument is that without race preferences there would be very few African American students admitted to Harvard and “an excess” of Asians and that would ruin the campus’s ambience, i.e., “diversity,” — the same argument against admitting Jews in the past. Though Harvard could probably fill the African American slots with lots of qualified black students from say Nigeria. I read somewhere that the way Yale Law maintains its “diversity” is by admitting lots of Nigerians.

  4. Isn’t this good for the Asians? Their mind won’t we washed by liberal ideas by not attending Harvard and similar ivy league universities.

    However, the real story isn’t about discrimination. It is about the USA scaling back on SAT [1]. With this scale back, those who already do well, i.e. Asians, well do even better. Those who don’t do well, will now appear to be doing well. And those who take the SAT will not study less for it because, well, they made it easier so why take it seriously!

    In a decade or so, when you visit your Dr., your financial advisor, your political representative, et. al. or ride in that self driving car, you should question: “Am I safer today, vs. COVID?”

    [1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereksaul/2022/01/25/changes-coming-to-sat-as-colleges-drop-testing-requirements/?sh=54d4b10630ec

  5. Asians place a lot more effort in rote memorization and drills on solving test problems. This is partly an outcome of the need to learn lots of Hanzi ( 汉字)/ Kanji (漢字) just to be able to read “adult” books, street signs, newspapers, etc – such learning is basically just work, repetition after repetition. Partly this is an outcome of heavily paternalistic cultures in East Asia.

    In a world with decent academia – dedicated to developing critical thinking skills, experimentation, inventiveness, deep understanding, and independent thought – these traits would be detrimental to success in higher education. Unfortunately, professors tend to be lazy and instead of evaluating students on real-life problems they use standardized tests with the roster of artificial closed-world simplified problems.

    Basically, today’s American academia became the kind of third-world rote learning which Feynman despised so much. (One of my recent encounters with a physics PhD involved me asking a simple physics question, at about high-school level in Russia – a kind of questions asked at university entrance exams; she got completely lost trying to figure out if the law of conservation of energy was violated in the experiment described.)

    PS. If you’d like an example of a Russian university oral entrance exam question – consider this: There is a tall building. You have a barometer and a watch. Determine the height of the building.

    There could be more than one workable solution. Discuss sources of measurement errors and estimate magnitudes of errors in the solution(s).

    I routinely ask this when I interview software engineers and have some time left after more conventional interview questions:)

    • @averros, my quick solution to barometer, watch and building.
      Take made in China watch and barometer, get on top of building built by proles, note time and through barometer down. When you hear braking sound note time again. Get time delta let say T. Take integral of constant accelerating velocity g*t over t form 0 to T and get g*T^2/2 if I recall it right. That minus height of experimenter up to his/her year is your building height . Sources of errors: g changes for really tall buildings. You hear breaking sound with delay, it can be fixed by using speed of sound with a little more math.
      Distance from watch to observer eye, some more math can fix it.
      Speed of processing of sounds and images in observer brain, fractions of seconds.

      When can I start? Do you provide pet llamas? Mid – 6 figures base and 5% common stock share is fine for me.

    • LOL. That is actually the most common solution:)

      Change of g even for very tall buildings is pretty much negligible (it can be measured, but it would take somewhat exotic equipment). Speed of sound, yes (can be reasonably easily compensated for since it is well known, 343 m/s at sea level and 20C). Speed of light in air is about 1ft/1ns, totally negligible. The neural/motoric delay can actually be compensated by proper experimental protocol (for example, if you have a lap timer, then press the start button when the falling barometer crosses the roof line, and then press stop (usually the same button) when you hear sound; even better to have somebody else to do the tossing). Start and stop neural delays will mostly compensate each other. Now, the real limiting factor is terminal velocity of a falling barometer due to air resistance (falling cats, for example, reach terminal velocity of 100 km/h after maybe 30 meters, which is about 15 stores high). Barometers are usually lighter than cats and comparable to cats in size, so their terminal velocity will be even less. Other interesting influence is wind, which makes for the slanted fall trajectory which increases sound delay.

      It’s probably easier to just sell barometer and watch and use the money to bribe building superintendent into taking trouble of digging out building plans and telling you the height:)

      Fun aside, if you are a senior-level programmer with background in compilers, logical programming (rule systems, symbolic computation, and such), language design, metaprogramming, libraries / algorithms (not necessarily everything, being a good autodidact/generalist is quite acceptable) I may be very interested. Interest in / knowledge of molecular biology/genetics is a plus. So it solid background in mathematics. Early-stage startup in Austin area (fully remote is OK but local is better), has commitment for $10M Series A private funding (no VCs at this stage), standard stock/salary/benefits for this type of companies. Send resume to averros@protonmail.com if you think it’s a match. Can’t tell much more w/o NDA, though we could discuss the market opportunity and the background and track record of founders privately.

    • @LSI, you failed the test! You left out the barometer dimensions and which side it hit the ground.

      @averros, the correct answer is to outsource the problem to an engineer in China or India, just like honest American companies do. Did I pass? Did I get the job?

    • @George A. LOL 🙂

      Really, there’s a saying among the wiser heads in the software industry. It goes like that: “If you don’t do your development in-house, you’ll make outhouse products.”

  6. It is funny to see Harvard still trying to claim that it does not discriminate. Obviously it discriminates. The question is whether it can legally adjust its admissions policy to meet its own racial diversity goals.

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