The Asian American Coalition for Education filed a complaint against Harvard University in 2015 alleging the school has discriminatory practices against Asian Americans. Photo: iStock/Getty
The Asian American Coalition for Education filed a complaint against Harvard University in 2015 alleging the school has discriminatory practices against Asian Americans. Photo: iStock/Getty

Over 60 Asian American organizations filed suit in May 2015 against Harvard University’s admissions policies regarding ethnic Asian students. The US Justice Department also said recently that it is probing the complaint.

The legal action contends that Harvard holds Asians to a higher admissions standard than African Americans, Hispanics and whites under a racial quota systems that unfairly limits the number of Asian American students admitted to the college annually.

Edward Blum is a conservative US legal strategist known for his activism against affirmative action programs at US colleges and universities aimed at increasing the proportion of minorities attending these schools. He publicly backs allegations of bias against Asian Americans in Harvard’s admissions process.

Blum’s group, the nonprofit Student for Fair Admissions, filed a separate and still pending law suit in November 2014 alleging that Harvard discriminates against high-achieving Asian Americans by favoring African Americans and Hispanics.

Blum was also the legal strategist behind Fisher v. University of Texas, a 2016 case that challenged the university’s use of racial preferences in deciding college admissions. The US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the school’s race-conscious admissions program in a 4-3 vote last year, handing supporters of affirmative action a major victory.

Blum shared his views about the Asian American suit against Harvard in an email interview with Asia Times.

What is your reaction to the suit brought by over 60 Asian American organizations against Harvard University’s admissions policy towards Asian American applicants?

It was not a conventional lawsuit, but rather an administrative complaint. In any event, we very much support their actions.

Are race-based admissions policies harmful to the educational process? Why?

Yes, they are harmful to the basic principles of the US — those principles are that your race should not be used to help you or hurt you in your life’s endeavors.

Do you think Asian Americans applicants should be allowed to compete on an equal footing with whites, African Americans and Hispanics in the college admissions process?

Yes. Today, they are punished because they are Asian.

Should straight test scores, grades and extracurricular activities be the chief factors in deciding college admissions? 

Not necessarily. But a student’s race and ethnicity should never be a factor.

If all race-based factors were removed in admissions at top US universities like Harvard and Asian Americans ended up outnumbering whites and other ethnic groups strictly based on test scores, grades and extracurricular activities — would you still accept this result and find it in conformance with US principles?

Yes, yes, yes. And if the result was more Hispanics than Asians, or more blacks than whites, or more whites than Hispanics then the answer is still yes, yes, yes.

How does Fisher v. University of Texas fit with the issues raised in the Asian American legal action against Harvard?

It has no bearing. Harvard is a very unique lawsuit just as was the Fisher case.

What is your response to criticism that Students For Fair Admissions is using Asian Americans to overturn affirmative action polices and drive a wedge between that community and other minorities?

We have other lawsuits in which our plaintiffs are white, so that charge isn’t true.

In your view, what kind of admissions policies should replace current affirmative action policies at US colleges and universities?

Race and ethnicity must be eliminated and everyone should be evaluated based on their individual merit.

Do you think that the Supreme Court will eventually rule against the use of affirmative action at US universities?

Yes. The sooner the better.

Doug Tsuruoka is Editor-at-Large of Asia Times

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