Day 3:

Harvard Admissions Dean Largely Ignored Report on Factors Affecting Asian-American Applicants
Asian-Americans would comprise 43% of the freshman class if admission hinged solely on academics
By Melissa Korn
Wall Street Journal
Updated Oct. 17, 2018 4:18 p.m. ET

BOSTON—Were admission to Harvard based solely on academic merit, Asian-Americans would comprise 43% of the freshman class, while African-Americans would make up less than 1%, according to an internal Harvard report discussed at a trial here Wednesday.

Lawyers representing a nonprofit that has sued the school alleging intentional discrimination against Asian-American applicants dug deep into the internal 2013 study in court. In the process, they highlighted whether some criteria Harvard uses to assess candidates put Asian-American candidates at a disadvantage and how little the admissions dean did with the data when he received the report five years ago.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs will decide after the three-week trial whether Harvard’s admissions practices violate federal civil-rights law.

The internal study, conducted by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research and labeled as preliminary, simulated what the admitted class would look like depending on which factors Harvard’s admissions office considered. The upshot: Asian-Americans fared best when the class was crafted based on academics alone. The share of Asian-Americans shrinks to 31.4% when recruited athletes and the children of Harvard graduates are factored in. When extracurricular and personal ratings also come into play, the share of Asian-Americans drops to 26%.

Asian-Americans were the only racial or ethnic group to see a decrease in their projected class representation with the inclusion of extra-curriculars and personal ratings.

Most elite schools consider a range of factors when determining admissions, in part because most applicants have stellar grades and test scores and are relatively indistinguishable on academics alone. The schools say they look at candidates in a holistic manner to ensure they have a good mix of students from different backgrounds, who can then learn from one another inside and outside the classroom.

The report shows that the actual admitted-student population, which also considers race, gender and other factors not in the internal simulations, was 18.7% Asian-American and 10.5% African-American combined across the decade that was reviewed.