Photo: Reuters / Brian Snyder
Because of rising costs, fewer American students are earning degrees in STEM fields. Photo: Reuters / Brian Snyder

A divisive flap over whether Harvard University’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants has prompted a Chinese American civic organization to issue a statement calling for improved communication by all sides in the debate over affirmative action in US higher education.

Alluding to an ongoing 2014 lawsuit by the conservative-backed Students for Fair Admission and a separate legal complaint filed in 2015 by more 60 Asian American community groups, the Committee of 100 (C100) noted that “Asian Americans are finding themselves at the center of the affirmative action debate.”

“These charges of bias are serious and should be investigated,” the group said in a statement. “Yet, in the ongoing discussion, the Committee of 100 urges all stakeholders to engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogue, and to refrain from rhetoric and actions that would pit one racial group against another and be unnecessarily divisive or counterproductive.”

The group said it recognized the “anxiety and concerns” of Asian American parents that their children face potential racial discrimination in the screening process for university admissions. It also lauded the effort by some Asian American groups to advocate for equal rights.

At the same time, it said: “It is important to remember that Asian Americans have also benefited from civil rights protections and programs that promote diversity.”

The statement added: “As we await action from the Justice Department, Asian Americans would do well to proactively reach out to other concerned Americans to seek long-term solutions and redress beyond the courts. For the collective and long-term future of our children and the future of America, we need to work together to ensure equal opportunity and equal protection for all,” the group said.

The Committee of 100 describes itself as a leadership organization representing prominent Chinese Americans in the US.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed earlier this month that the Department of Justice is probing whether Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian Americans. The legal issue focuses on whether the ivy league institution holds top-rung Asian students to a higher admissions standard than African Americans, Hispanics and whites.