Representative Michelle Steel recently stood up for the rights of Asian-American college applicants in a hearing with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
In the hearing, Steel challenged Cardona on the use of admissions practices by certain colleges, including Yale University, that allow applicants to be judged on intangible and subjective traits such as “likability,” “helpfulness,” and “kindness.”
Although these practices do not explicitly discriminate against Asian-American students, concerns have been raised that they could lead to de facto racial discrimination, perhaps even serving as a backdoor for race-based affirmative action admissions policies. While affirmative action policies are intended to benefit minority students, they have been accused of facilitating discrimination against Asian-American students.
These policies have been the subject of multiple lawsuits filed against Yale and other universities, including a case by the United States Department of Justice brought under President Trump, which was dropped earlier this year by the Biden administration. Evidence has surfaced showing that, while Asian-American applicants to Yale scored higher than average on most traditional and easily quantifiable factors of consideration – including grades and test scores – they scored lower on the factors related to personality.
Cardona agreed with Steel that racial discrimination, including discrimination against Asian-American students, is unacceptable, and said that he appreciated her bringing forward her concerns. However, he declined to comment on the specifics of Steel’s allegations.
“It is wrong for universities to continue these discriminatory practices against (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) students,” Steel said in a statement on Twitter. “Students should be admitted based on merit, not these subjective standards.”
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