When Progress Becomes a Hazard: Choosing Between Meritocracy and Affirmative Action

 Photo: Brian Snyder © Reuters

Photo: Brian Snyder © Reuters

While Awkwafina hosted SNL last Saturday (a milestone as the first Asian American woman in 18 years to host the show), students were gathering to protest unfair admissions by Harvard.  Earlier today, the U.S. District Court in Boston began hearing arguments alleging Harvard University discriminates against Asian American applicants by using a vague “personal rating” to screen them out in favor of students from other backgrounds to “balance out” their student body.  The suit stems from the contention that Asian American applicants have higher academic records than any other race but are admitted at the lowest rate.  Students for Fair Admissions is the group bringing the suit and is led by Edward Blum, a conservative activist made famous for fighting affirmative action in favor of an acceptance criteria that does not include factoring for race, ethnicity, or religion, i.e. an anonymous evaluation. For Asian Americans, this case brings up a slew of soul-searching questions. Can one be for both affirmative action and merit-based acceptance?  Will a win for the plaintiff serve to benefit Whites the most?  Are Asian Americans being used as a pawn in Blum’s chess game?  Will colleges become less diverse as a result?  What is the impact of such a divisive issue on the Asian American community?    

 

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