Where do Asian Americans stand when it comes to race and higher education? This question is driving much of the news coverage related to race and college admissions now that Students for Fair Admissions, led by Edward Blum (a conservative activist who has also advocated rolling back voting rights for minority voters) is suing Harvard University for discrimination against Asian Americans. Underlying the suit is a questionable assumption: that Asian Americans face a systematic penalty in admissions processes that use “holistic review” processes to admit students.
Holistic review – an approach to admissions that emphasizes the importance of many factors (including, sometimes, race) in addition to traditional academic measures – is used by most colleges and universities. But this case is not really about the 2,000 undergraduates admitted to Harvard each year. Blum’s organization is behind several recent and pending anti-affirmative action cases, some of which have made it to the Supreme Court. This case is about pitting one community of color against others to dismantle holistic review and affirmative action across the country.
With the Harvard case, Blum is offering a new twist from his past assaults on civil rights. By claiming Asian Americans are the victims, Blum attempts to shield Students for Fair Admissions from accusations of hoarding privilege for whites, potentially disarming some groups who have fought against exclusionary admissions policies in the past.