Tam L. California

Discrimination and Racial Bias in College Admissions Must Come to an End

Imagine being in trial for a crime and being found guilty, despite the substantial evidence pointing towards your innocence. This is the feeling that Asian Americans have to experience today in the college admissions process.

Dear Future President:

Regardless of the poor metaphor of a court trial, the core message behind it remains the same. The truth of the matter is that Asians have a history of being discriminated against when it comes to college admissions, even when these applicants are exceptionally qualified for enrollment in the university. In fact, this has become so apparent that a group of Asian American students have filed a complaint against Harvard University for allegedly being discriminatory in their admissions process.

Public and private universities both claim to consider their applicants holistically, meaning that admissions officers look at grades and test scores in addition to the applicant's background when deciding who gets accepted. As a result, college admissions become less and less objective while the standards for admission become more and more indefinite. Therefore, these "holistic admissions" can become bridges for cultural and racial bias to take their hold, and are simply excuses for the universities to attain socioeconomic diversity in order to avoid complaints from minorities and upkeep a good name for themselves. From my experience, it seems as if admission has little to do with merit and more to do with the social circumstances that applicants experience, which is radically unfair.

But what colleges may or may not realize in doing so is that they're actually hurting the Asian American minority. Because of this racial bias, colleges hold Asians to a higher standard than other minorities and Caucasians. In fact, a study conducted by Princeton sociologists Thomas J. Epenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford has shown that Asian Americans need to score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites to be considered as equivalent in terms of academics.

You might be wondering, how is this possible? Isn't there some type of rule against this?

The answer is no. Affirmative action is still allowed in most universities and colleges. Taking a look at Google's definition of affirmative action, it says that it is "an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination." At first glance, any reasonable person would agree with this. We should be a little more lenient towards those who are underprivileged. But when this interferes with others is when it becomes a problem. According the the graph above, as well as other data, Blacks and Hispanics are given preferential treatment, which is great when considering their overall socioeconomic standing. However, at the same time, it severely lessens the chances of whites and Asians to be accepted to universities even if they have the same or better academic qualifications. 

Many argue that even if Asian Americans don't get accepted into their school of choice, they will still inevitably attend a good university, albeit perhaps not one as prestigious as they would have liked. Indeed this is a logical point. However, this only covers the superficial aspect of the college admissions issue. Sure, they may end up attending say, University of Massachusetts instead of Harvard, which won't make a huge impact on the outcome of their job opportunities. But, it still doesn't address the bias within college admittance that is analogous with the bias prevalent within different areas of our society today. This bias only perpetuates stereotypes that we are seeking to rid of as a progressing society in an era of acceptance and tolerance.

The truth is, affirmative action is an unjust policy that openly practices discrimination and should be banned from all states.

Thank you,

Tam L.

Works Used

  • Images from: http://reappropriate.co/2009/10/anti-asian-bias-in-college-admissions-part-1-an-improper-comparison/  and  https://www.unigo.com/get-to-college/college-admissions/a-college-rejection-letter-doesnt-mean-my-son-isnt-awesome
  • http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-harberson-asian-american-admission-rates-20150609-story.html
  • https://www.google.com/search?q=affirmative+action&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
  • https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/05/13/elite-colleges-should-not-penalize-asian-applicants-essay
  • http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/charles-wheelan/2015/06/09/claims-of-harvard-bias-against-asian-americans-show-admissions-trade-offs
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