Asian students admitted to masking their racial identities in their applications to top colleges and universities in the U.S. in a bid to bypass the race-conscious admission policies instituted by affirmative action.
In an interview with The New York Times, several students revealed that they were forced to make themselves appear “less Asian” on their college applications just to be considered for admission.
According to Harvard University student Max Li, he did not declare his race on his school application because he “perceived that being Asian is a net negative.“
Clara Chen took the test for Advanced Placement French instead of the Advanced Placement exam for Chinese out of concern that it could undermine her score. Meanwhile, Marissa Li did not disclose her passion for competitive chess, out of fear that it might come across as too stereotypically Asian.
Internal documents from the university reinforced such notions, as they reveal that administrators have rated Asian-American applicants lower on personality traits that included “positive personality,” likability, courage and being “widely respected.”
Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a student advocacy group that accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian American applicants in a lawsuit, pointed out in their written argument that this has long been the case.
“An entire industry exists to help them appear ‘less Asian’ on their college applications,” the group notes, citing a 2004 test-prep guide that warned: “If you are an Asian American—or even if you simply have an Asian or Asian-sounding surname—you need to be careful about what you do and don’t say in your application.”
The guide further advised Asian Americans to not “write your application essay about the importance of your family,” “don’t say you want to be a doctor,” “don’t say you want to major in math or the sciences,” “don’t attach a photograph,” “don’t answer the optional question about your ethnic background,” and don’t do anything that makes you look like “other Asian applicants with similar characteristics.”
SFFA, headed by a conservative activist Edward Blum, filed cases against both Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC), contending in part that Asian students are disadvantaged by affirmative action.
The group is seeking to overturn the landmark 2003 (Grutter v Bollinger) case that paved the way for universities to consider race as one of several factors in admitting students. The U.S. Supreme Court last heard arguments for and against affirmative action at the end of October.