Discrimination in University’s admissions

If you ask an Asian American whether hard work is the key to success 69% will answer positively, against a 58% of the general public. Asian American community is on average a quite happy one: well educated, married and with good jobs – willing to believe in the American dream. However the history of Asian immigration in America is quite neglected, and most certainly the discrimination they still face are not common knowledge.

Before 1965 the history of Asian-American immigrants is not a happy story. Some emblematic timeline events are in 1871 a mass lynching episode in which 17 Chinese were murdered, in 1882 the Chinese exclusion Act prohibited Chinese immigration. In 1965 the Immigration and Naturalization Act eliminates national-origins quotas (Magnuson Act), effectively abolishing race as a criterion for allocating immigration quotas to various countries – the quota of allowed immigrants in the US is given with priority to those with skills which was often the case for Asian immigrants. Despite this episodes of discrimination persisted. Until 2001, in states such as Wyoming laws against ethnic-Chinese immigration and against property ownership still existed. In 2011—2014, Asians continued to be openly denigrated by perpetrators who expect impunity, asserting that their behavior falls entirely within the acceptable norm. For instance, just in 1982 we have a case of murder of a Chinese American and it’s killer walked away with just a $300 fine.

Nowadays, Asian- American appear to have the highest wage among racial studies. This is mainly due to their outstanding academic performances. 49% of Asian Americans have a bachelor degree, compared to the 29% of general population. If on one hand Asian-Americans account for 5.6% of American population their presence in the American maths and physics Olympiad teams appears to be 30% and 25-30% of National Merit Scholarships. A lot of studies have concentrated on explaining the reasons for this excellence in academic performances. Some of them take into consideration the hypothesis of innate ability, as the stereotype would suggest, but most of them tend not to find evidence on such argument. Rather most of the studies point to mere hard work. However despite the hard work and the numbers, not as much as expected Asian-Americans end up in the top universities. Recently a coalition of Asian-American associations, 64 to be precise filed a complaint with the US Department of Education and the Justice Department claiming that Harvard University unfairly holds Asian-American applicants to a higher standard. Asian-Americans have the lowest acceptance rates at Harvard University and other elite universities, the complaint alleges, despite having some of the highest test scores and overall academic achievement.


As much as Ivy League Univeristies deny running racial quotas the lawsuit has it’s grounds. According to different studies, an Asian-American student has to score 140 points higher than a white student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a black student on the SAT to be on equal footing.

“People from all over the world came to America for equal opportunities. We are trying to bring those principles back to America,” said Yukong Zhao, a Chinese-American author who helped organize the coalition. “This isn’t just about discrimination and race. It is about justice for everyone, including (people of) all races, and social and economic statuses.”

Multi-ethnicity in the US is a strong reality, and sadly racial attitudes are wide spread. But when they happen within such prestigious institutes which should be the leaders of the change, then even hope is gone.


Benedetta Pavesi



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