Harvard material? Asian-American students assess affirmative action

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Mikaela Rabizadeh media editor

A group of denied applicants sued Harvard University in August of this year over affirmative action policies that allegedly discriminated against Asian-American candidates. As Beverly students submit their own applications and begin to hear back from colleges these coming months, the pervasive question still stands: what makes an applicant Harvard-material?

The prosecutors claimed that the university holds Asian-Americans to a higher admission standard than other students. Apart from the academic factors of the application, Harvard manipulates their admissions process through subjective reviews such as the “personal rating,” the accusers say. Harvard responded to allegations by defending their “holistic” process as an instrument to ensure diversity.

However, Asian-Americans are divided on the topic. While some are frustrated by Harvard’s allegedly racist process, others believe that Asians are merely being used as a pawn to abrogate affirmative action. Senior Katie Wu, who is applying to Harvard, believes that affirmative action can be either beneficial or detrimental depending on how it is used.

“I think that affirmative action is good, but once a minority starts to get to the level where affirmative action is barrier because the quota is now too low for the population, that’s where it starts to be a problem,” Wu says.

Although Asian-American senior Tiffany Chieu is not applying. She, like Wu, sees the pros and cons to affirmative action.

“Affirmative action is bad when they are just trying to fill in quotas,” Chieu says. “But, when you are actually trying to help people who, for example, are disadvantaged and might actually need that help, then that’s when it can be good.”

Senior and Harvard applicant Mia Grossman recognizes Harvard as a melting pot of well-rounded intellectuals. Grossman, who is not Asian, believes affirmative action is necessary to maintain the diverse learning environment.

“There does appear to be this higher degree of selectivity among Asian applicants,” Grossman says. “But what Harvard is also trying to do is create a diverse campus where people with different backgrounds and ideas can meet, interact and learn from each other.”

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