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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 3, 2006

Written by C.N.

Rejected Asian American Applicant Sues Princeton

As I’ve written about before, the effects of affirmative action on Asian Americans is a hotly-debated topic. Adding fuel to the fire is the latest development — an Asian American applicant with seemingly stellar qualifications was rejected at Princeton and has filed a federal complaint against the school for discrimination:

His complaint states that he received 800s on the mathematics, critical reading and writing parts of the SAT, that he graduated in the top 1 percent of his high school class, that he completed nine Advanced Placement classes by the time he graduated, and that he had been active in extracurricular activities as well — serving as a delegate at Boys State, working in Costa Rica, etc. . . .

Even if Li was a strong applicant and Princeton knew he was Chinese, that doesn’t demonstrate discrimination. To try to do so, Li is pointing to research done by two Princeton scholars and published in Social Science Quarterly. The research looked at admissions decisions at elite colleges and found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent.

While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percent. And their share of a class of admitted students would rise to 31.5 percent, from 23.7 percent. . . .

Last year, she said, Princeton rejected about half of all the applicants who had perfect SAT scores — and in doing so rejected people of a range of ethnicities. “Princeton doesn’t discriminate against Asian Americans,” she said. Princeton does use affirmative action to recruit a diverse class, Cliatt said, but it does so through individual reviews of applications, not with separate policies for students from different racial and ethnic groups.

We should note however, that this study stands in opposition to other data which show that since affirmative action was ended in California, Texas, and Washington, the number of Asian American law school students has actually declined. So is there a middle ground here? Can Asian American applicants get a fair shake in the context of affirmative action programs that favor Blacks and Latinos?

I still think the answer is yes. I think it’s going to be inevitable that some applicants with “higher” objective qualifications will get rejected in favor of other applicants with “lower” objective qualifications. However, as long as minimum standards are met and that the goal of such programs is to create a racially and ethnically diverse class that gives students from less privileged backgrounds an equal chance at admissions than more privileged applicants, I feel that affirmative action still has a place in college admissions and other areas of American society.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Rejected Asian American Applicant Sues Princeton" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/12/rejected-asian-american-applicant-sues-princeton/> ().

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