What You Need To Know: Asian American Group Files Anti-Affirmative Action Complaint Against Yale, Dartmouth, Brown

I can’t believe we’re dealing with this again.

Less than a year after the Department of Education dismissed a frivolous administrative complaint filed by the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) against Harvard University, the AACE has now announced it will file a nearly identical administrative complaint against  Yale University, Brown University and Dartmouth College. In their  complaint against Harvard, AACE alleged — absent any significant evidence — that race-conscious affirmative action discriminates against Asian American applicants.

This work bolsters efforts by conservative partisan and lobbyist Edward Blum, who has made a career out of opposing civil rights measures for people of color. Blum is best known as the architect of the Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court cases, which is the Right’s latest campaign to invalidate affirmative action in higher education.

Outside of his interest in ending race-conscious affirmative action, Blum has backed numerous Supreme Court cases to reverse portions of the Voting Rights Act and to silence voters of color. In the recently defeated Evenwel v. Abbott Supreme Court case, Blum and his fellow litigators argued that districts should be drawn so as to disenfranchise thousands of non-voting citizens, who are predominantly young people and people of color.

Edward Blum is clearly no ally of the AAPI community. So, one must wonder why some Asian Americans would support his causes.

Continue reading on http://reappropriate.co.

Dept. of Education Dismisses Complaint Filed Against Harvard by Anti-Affirmative Action Asian American Groups

This was originally posted on reappropriate.co.

reappropriate.coIn a completely unsurprising turn of events, the Department of Education yesterday dismissed an administrative complaint filed in May against Harvard University by 60+ Asian American anti-affirmative action activists. The complaint alleged that Harvard University discriminates against Asian American applicants in their race-conscious affirmative action admissions policies but little information was provided to bolster these claims.

The Department of Education announced yesterday that the complaint was rejected because it was too similar in content to a pending federal lawsuit, which had been filed late last year by conservative anti-affirmative action lobbyist Edward Blum.

The similarities would be predicted: the complaint states in its introduction that it was inspired by the federal lawsuit orchestrated by Edward Blum. Indeed, that appears to be something of an understatement: some of the text of the administrative complaint is thinly-veiled (relatively lazy) paraphrasing of the Blum lawsuit (see below), and the last half of the complaint straightforwardly reproduces the Blum lawsuit nearly in its entirety. One might use the word “plagiarism”, if one weren’t already convinced that both the lawsuit and the complaint were coordinated by anti-affirmative action parties working in tandem — at their press conference this year, the complaint’s authors were open about their close relationship with Edward Blum’s Students For Fair Admissions political action group.


The administrative complaint’s footing was also weakened by the fact that it (and therefore, by extension, Blum’s lawsuit) offers limited supporting evidence for their claim of anti-Asian bias at Harvard University. Harvard, in particular, seemed a dubious target for the complaint: that school had already been the focus of a Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights investigation to specifically explore the possibility that Asian American applicants were racially disadvantaged in admissions, and no evidence of discrimination had been uncovered at the school.

Harvard’s proportion of incoming Asian American freshmen has been steadily increasing. This year, 21% of Harvard’s incoming freshman class is Asian American, which is an identical proportion to the fraction of Harvard’s applicants who are Asian American. Thus, there is no evidence that Asian American applicants are being subjected to a disparate admissions rate compared to other applicants; rather, Asian Americans are apparently being admitted at the same highly selective rate (5.3%) as the aggregate applicant pool.

Race-conscious affirmative action has been necessary to maintain higher education access for underprivileged Black, Latino, Native and AAPI students. Consistent with this, the vast majority of AAPI voters say they support affirmative action and do not believe it hurts our college admissions chances. Two Civil Rights Commissioners — both Asian American — released a joint statement in response to May’s anti-affirmative action filing to the Department of Education, stating:

Neither of us believes that any racial or ethnic group should be subjected to quotas. Nor do we believe that test scores alone entitle anyone to admission at Harvard. Students are more than their test scores and grades. Well-constructed and properly implemented admissions programs further our principles of equal opportunity. While we understand that some programs may be imperfect, or even need substantial reform, we do not support any attempt to eliminate affirmative action programs at Harvard or any institution of higher learning.

The authors of the administrative complaint are the clear minority for our community. Reflecting this fact, more than 135 national AAPI civil rights organizations and hundreds of concerned individuals signed an open letter earlier this year supporting race-conscious affirmative action policies and opposing the 60+ groups’ administrative complaint. Their ongoing efforts to protect affirmative action can be found at AsianAmericanCivilRights.org.

The complaint’s authors are not, however, dissuaded. Speaking to media yesterday, Yukong Zhao hinted that the groups may refile their complaints targeting other schools. Saying he was “very disappointed”, Zhao said, “there are lots of other Ivy League schools discriminating against Asians.”

Speaking to NBC News, Zhao said:

“We are going to continue to pursue our equal education rights,” Zhao told NBC News. “We have a lot of other options, and we are not going to be slowed by this.”

Well, alrighty then. Looks like Zhao and his anti-affirmative action buddies now plan to harass other elite universities with the same angry accusations.

Meanwhile, Edward Blum’s lawsuits — which use the Asian American community as racial mascots to advance a conservative anti-affirmative action agenda — hit a roadblock Monday when Harvard University and University of North Carolina asked the courts to put the cases against them on hold pending the Supreme Court’s announcement it would rehear the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case. In 2013, the Supreme Court sent the Fisher case — in which plaintiff Abigail Fisher alleged racial discrimination against herself and other White applicants at the University of Texas — back to the Court of Appeals to apply strict scrutiny to the case; when the case was returned to them, the Fifth Circuit again ruled in favour of University of Texas saying that the school’s race-conscious affirmative action policies were fair.

I really have to start wondering: what would it take for opponents of affirmative action to finally start reading the writing on the wall?

Media Inaccurately Portrays Asian American Views on Affirmative Action

This commentary originally appeared on the Daily Bruin on May 21, 2015.

By Arthur Wang, UCLA

Affirmative action is back, and Asian Americans are angry – at least, that’s what the media wants you to believe.

The vast majority of news networks and websites around the country immediately jumped on discussing the discrimination complaint filed with the federal government by 64 Asian American organizations Friday. The complaint calls for an investigation of alleged race-based discrimination at Harvard University, citing the lack of Asian enrollment growth during the last decade despite a dramatic increase in applications during the same time period.

The suit comes on the heels and largely repeats the sentiments of a pair of lawsuits filed November against Harvard and the University of North Carolina by the Project on Fair Representation, detailing similar allegations.

As a Chinese American myself, it’s too bad that the media at large has chosen to reproduce an inaccurate narrative of Asian American attitudes toward higher education and a contentious public policy, without considering the complex demographic circumstances of Asian America or surveying what the group as a whole actually thinks about affirmative action.

The media has also failed to scrutinize the status of the 64 groups comprising the “Coalition of Asian-American Associations” that jointly filed the complaint. Of all the 20-plus outlets that decided to discuss the complaint, only MSNBC and the Chronicle of Higher Education bothered to provide a link to the actual text of the complaint.

This is critical because this allows readers to see what, exactly, the complainant groups are. Newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal mention that the cosigned groups include “Chinese, Indian, Korean and Pakistani organizations.”

But taking a look at the list makes it clear that the coalition is a poor representation of Asian American interests, does not include many well-established Asian American advocacy and rights groups and does not include groups that represent southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. A vast majority of the organizations is explicitly pertinent to Chinese or East Asian subgroups. Fewer than 10 of the groups are pertinent to non-Chinese. Even worse, a brief search for some of these groups on the Internet yields little to no information detailing their advocacy work or activities, as many appear to be created recently by immigrant groups.

Where is the presence of the biggest Asian American advocacy groups, such as the legal and civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Organization of Chinese Americans and API Equality? They cosigned a letter by more than 135 Asian American groups reaffirming their support for affirmative action, with substantial representation from major East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander organizations.

On the whole, Asian Americans in California have been, and remain, supporters of affirmative action. According to the National Asian American Survey, a nonpartisan polling project by UC Riverside professor Karthick Ramakrishnan, 61 percent of Asian Americans in the state voted against Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race in higher education and public employment. In addition, a 2014 field poll of voters found 69 percent of Asian Americans support affirmative action. The media at large, however, has done little to report on or explicate this sort of coverage, skewing public perception of the group’s beliefs by choosing instead to focus on the opposition, by and large comprised of immigrant Chinese.

That only BuzzFeed, of all news outlets, has discussed the broad-based coalition that supports affirmative action so far is a telling sign of how unbalanced the public discourse on the policy is with regard to Asian Americans. Furthermore, much of the coverage ignores the incredible diversity within the “Asian” umbrella category. I may not representAsian Americans by any means, but writing as a researcher and a journalist, we should exercise caution in interpreting mainstream media coverage of what “the Asians” think about any given issue.

‘Who are Asian Americans?’

U.C. Irvine sociology professor Jennifer Lee was interviewed recently by The Chronicle of Higher Education about the allegations by some organizations against Harvard’s admissions policies. The May 20, 2015, article is subscriber-only, but I wanted to share one part of the Q&A in which writer Peter Schmidt asks Prof. Lee about the divide among Asian Americans on this issue.  Her response:

I think the central question here is: Who are Asian-Americans? Are Asian-Americans only the hyperselected and the highly educated and those who fit this exceptional outcome, or are Asian-Americans willing to recognize the ethnic and class diversities of our communities?

Here I am thinking of Asian ethnic groups like Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, who have higher high-school-dropout rates than African-Americans and Latinos. They are also Asian-Americans, and they would benefit from raceconscious

The groups who have filed the complaints against Harvard tend to be those who are from the most highly educated segment of Asian-Americans, who are typically immigrants concerned about the educational opportunities of their children. I understand that, of course, but it is a very self-interested view, and fails to recognize the diversity of the Asian-American community.

Here’s the full article, again subscriber-only.

Espenshade: Data are not Proof of anti-Asian Discrimination | #Edu4All

This was originally posted by Jenn Fang on reappropriate.co.

Since the publication in 2009 of his influential study (with co-author Alexandria Walton Radford) on admission patterns in the country’s elite private universities (“No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal”), Princeton researcher Thomas J. Espenshade’s data have been an oft-cited resource for the anti-affirmative action Right. In his study, Espenshade compiled GPA and SAT test scores for selective private institutions of higher education, and compared them to admission rates by race. He reported that Asian American applicants appeared to be admitted at a lower rate than White, Black or Latino peers with comparable quantitative scores. He then extrapolated that into SAT scores, concluding that a hypothetical Asian American student would require a theoretical extra 140 points on the SAT score to achieve the same probability of admission as a White peer, and a theoretical extra 450 SAT points to achieve the same probability of admission as a Black peer.

This finding has found its way into scores of anti-affirmative action articles, amicus briefs, lawsuits, and civil rights complaints. Most recently, it was cited as major evidence of anti-Asian bias during college admissions in the lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions against UNC and Harvard by lobbyist Edward Blum. Espenshade also features prominently in the administrative complaint filed to the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Justice by 60 mostly Chinese American groups last Friday against Harvard University.

Espenshade’s work is meticulous and appears to show some sort of disadvantage for Asian American applicants to certain selective private universities; but too often, it has also been overinterpreted, misinterpreted, and misreported. Espenshade’s work is not a direct reporting of SAT score disparities at the nation’s select universities. Asian American enrollees are not actually required to score 450 more SAT points than Black enrollees: at Harvard, the gap between average Black and Asian SAT scores is a mere 190 points on a 2400 point scale.

Furthermore, Espenshade’s findings may not be applicable to public universities, which are far less selective than private institutions. It is not clear that Espenshade considered other factors that will influence selectivity, including for example nation of origin.  Correlation is not causation.

But finally, and most importantly, Espenshade’s data deliberately over-simplifies the college admissions process by excluding most of the criteria upon which admissions officers base admissions decisions. By considering only applicant GPA and SAT score, Espenshade necessarily places total (and determinative) weight on these two quantifiable metrics alone, and assumes that the over 900 other factors that admissions officers consider under holistic review are simply unimportant.

Holistic review is standard in college admissions precisely because institutions of higher education in America have increasingly deprioritized standardized test scores and GPA, in recognition of the numerous studies that demonstrate the poor power of these metrics in assessing applicant merit. Studies show that the SAT I — which was only ever intended to predict first-year college performance — predicts only 22% of variability in student success in that first year. A separate study showed that a 100-point increase in SAT score correlates to only about a 1/10th of a point in first-year college GPA.  Colleges and universities that no longer require applicants’ SAT scores find that their students fare just as well as students enrolled in schools where SAT scores are mandatory. In fact, the only applicant metric that the SAT appears to be able to faithfully predict is family income.

Critics of affirmative action argue, however, that Espenshade’s data prove that holistic review is discriminatory against Asian Americans. They argue that  race-conscious affirmative action, which is one of the hundreds of background datapoints considered (holistically) for each applicant, is biased against Asian American applicants. They argue that this extrapolated and theoretical 140 point gap between Asian and White applicants is proof that affirmative action is unconstitutional.

Thomas Espenshade, himself, doesn’t buy that interpretation of his own data.

In 2009, Inside Higher Education reached out to Espenshade and asked him to comment on the popular (mis)interpretations of his data. They reported:

Espenshade said in an interview that he does not think his data establish this [anti-Asian] bias. He noted that while his formulas are notably more complete than typical test score comparisons by race and ethnicity, he doesn’t have the “softer variables,” such as teacher and high school counselor recommendations, essays and lists of extracurricular activities. It is possible, he said, that such factors explain some of the apparent SAT and ACT disadvantage facing Asian applicants.

At the same time, he said he understood that these numbers would certainly not reassure Asian applicants or those who believe they are suffering discrimination.

“I understand the worry of Asian students, but do I have a smoking gun? No,” he said.

Asked again last Friday about inclusion of his data in the recent civil rights complaint against Harvard, Espenshade told the Harvard Crimson:

“I stop short of saying that Asian-American students are being discriminated against in the college application process because we don’t have sufficient empirical evidence to support that claim,”  Espenshade said.

In short, Thomas Espenshade doesn’t believe his data are proof of anti-Asian discrimination in the college application process.

So maybe the anti-affirmative action Right should stop co-opting his science to advance their own partisan agenda? Just sayin’.